ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

August 5, 2010

André Birotte Jr., United States Attorney

Contact: Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer
(213) 894-6947
thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov

Grand Jury Indicts 15 Linked to Major ‘Ecstasy’ Ring

San Gabriel Valley-Based Organization Believed Responsible for Distribution of Hundreds of Thousands of MDMA Tablets Every Month

LOS ANGELES — Culminating an investigation that led to the seizure of well over 1.1 million ecstasy tablets this year, a federal grand jury has indicted 15 men linked to a San Gabriel Valley-based drug trafficking organization that was allegedly responsible for distributing hundreds of thousands of MDMA pills every month.

The indictment, which was returned by the grand jury yesterday afternoon, accuses the 15 defendants of participating in a conspiracy to possess and distribute huge quantities of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), which is the chemical name of a party drug commonly called ecstasy.

Ecstasy is a dangerous narcotic that can cause death, as we have seen at a number of local events in recent years, said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. The death of a teen-age girl at a rave several weeks ago and the huge number of tablets recently seized from this drug ring clearly demonstrate that ecstasy is a growing problem. We have now dismantled one large-scale ecstasy ring, and other MDMA traffickers should know that we’re coming after them next.

The drug trafficking organization targeted in the indictment allegedly was headed by Jimmy Luong, who maintained a stash house in the City of Industry that served as the base of operations for the narcotics ring. During the execution of a search warrant at Luong’s stash house last month, authorities found an operating laboratory capable of manufacturing MDMA and large quantities of methamphetamine. At a second stash location at a storage facility in Arcadia, authorities in June seized approximately 510,000 MDMA tablets. A third stash location yielded approximately 200,000 MDMA tablets when Luong and his associates were arrested last month.

During the first seven months of 2010, the investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Beverly Hills Police Department resulted in the seizure of at least 1,134,000 MDMA tablets (investigators are still counting pills seized two weeks ago), 33 kilograms of cocaine, well over $500,000 in cash believed to be the proceeds of drug trafficking and 21 firearms, which include assault rifles and stolen weapons with hollow-point ammunition. With a street price of $15 per pill, authorities have seized at least $17 million worth of ecstasy.

Ecstasy is a serious threat to our communities, particularly to our teens and youth who are often unaware of the significant harm this drug can cause, said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. We have crushed a criminal organization that distributed huge quantities of ecstasy tablets. These arrests serve notice that DEA and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate the illegal trafficking of ecstasy in our communities.

The defendants charged in the indictment are:

  • Jimmy Luong, 29, of Monterey Park, who is accused of being a large-scale MDMA distributor responsible for selling hundreds of thousands of MDMA pills per month;
  • Tony Barerra Jr., 37, of West Covina, who is accused of acting as a supplier to Luong’s organization and, according to the indictment, possessed approximately 200,000 MDMA tablets when he was arrested last month;
  • Toan Hoang, 33, of El Monte, who allegedly served as Luong’s second-in-command;
  • Lok Lim, 33, of El Monte, who allegedly delivered the 510,000 MDMA tablets that were seized in Arcadia in June;
  • Christopher Ammen, 21, of El Monte, who allegedly helped distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA for the Luong organization;
  • David Luu, 21, of Monterey Park, who allegedly helped distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA for the Luong organization and collected drug sale proceeds for delivery back to Luong;
  • Joseph Yao, 26, of Temple City, who allegedly rented the Arcadia storage facility where 510,000 MDMA tablets were seized;
  • John Underwood, 42, of La Mirada, an alleged drug courier who allegedly helped supply Luong's organization with MDMA and, according to the indictment, possessed approximately 30 kilograms of cocaine and $417,000 in cash when he was arrested two weeks ago;
  • Jesse Roman, 24, of Los Angeles (90003);
  • Michael Duong, 27, of Rosemead;
  • David Kong, 22, of Los Angeles, who has agreed to surrender to authorities on Monday;
  • Sam Ha, 31, of El Monte;
  • Duy Nguyen, 22, of Fountain Valley;
  • Long Nguyen, 22, of Santa Ana; and
  • Tuan Vu, 24, of Alhambra, who is a fugitive.

The 13 defendants in custody and Kong are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Monday morning in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

The drug trafficking charge alleged in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison or up to 30 years in prison for defendants who have a prior felony drug conviction.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime.

Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Beverly Hills Police Department Captain Mitch McCann stated: These arrests and seizures are the culmination of countless hours of effort on the part of the Beverly Hills Police Department Special Enforcement Section and our partners in combating crime. It is an example of how criminal operations of this level are not isolated events. They are far-reaching concerns with toxic effects that stretch across social, ethnic, physical, and financial boundaries to harm all people. An arrest of this magnitude goes a long way in making our society and community a safer place to work and live.

John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division, commented: Firearms are tools used by many drug cartels and now ecstasy organizations. In the course of this ecstasy investigation, ATF and our law enforcement partners seized 21 firearms, some of which were similar to those used by law enforcement and the military. ATF will now use our expertise to trace each firearm to a potential source and go after whoever may be illegally purchasing these guns or supplying them to this criminal enterprise.

The investigation into the Luong drug trafficking organization was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Beverly Hills Police Department, with significant assistance from IRS - Criminal Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (LA IMPACT).

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