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Feds Bust Cannabis Smuggling Ring Moving 100,000 Pounds of Pot from Coast to Coast

A band of cross-country pot smugglers used tractor trailers to move tons of marijuana across the U.S. from coast to coast, delivering the weed to storage containers and homes in Queens and across the city, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The suspects, who live in San Francisco and Las Vegas, packed roughly 100,000 pounds of pot, marijuana oil and paraphernalia in boxes labeled “Furniture Brothers,” Coastal Designs” and “New Century Design” in about 200 truck shipments since February 2015, according to court filings.

They then tried to fly home with wads of cash in their carry-on luggage, relying on friendly airport workers to help them get past baggage screeners, prosecutors allege.

Thanks to their new informant, federal police arrested San Francisco resident Kenneth Tam, 35, and Jack Thai, 39, who lives in Las Vegas. But while prosecutors are confident that they’ve detained two high ranking members of the illicit operation, police say that the leader of the cannabis distribution ring, Kevin Lau, 34, is still at large, despite warrants out for his arrest.

The feds allege they enlisted others, including an immigrant worker at a U.S.-based airline who turned confidential informant for Homeland Security investigators and wore a wire in exchange for deferred action on possible deportation proceedings.

Tam was stopped at Orlando Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport two separate times in 2017 with large sums of cash in Fed Ex and U.S. Postal Service envelopes, court papers allege. Both times, a dog smelled drug residue on the money.

Federal agents intercepted shipments, seizing hundreds of pounds of pot from a storage facility in Astoria last July.

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Another alleged member of the conspiracy, Alexander Crispi, was arrested in one of the Astoria raids. He’s since taken a guilty plea, and is awaiting sentencing.

As states like California and Nevada continue to refine their legal cannabis markets, local and federal authorities have shifted focus to the black market, with similar raids on illicit grow operations and cross-country transportation making headlines every week.

Tam and Thai have since been released from holding on bond while they await trial. Police are still searching for Lau.

Tam and Thai have since been released from holding on bond while they await trial. Police are still searching for Lau. 

Tam was freed Tuesday on a $500,000 bond, while Thai was released Wednesday on $50,000 bond.

source: ©2019 New York Daily News

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