A Jefferson Parish jury on Tuesday (March 15) deliberated about 20 minutes in finding Long Nguyen guilty of conspiring to have large amounts of marijuana shipped from California for local distribution.
Nguyen, 45, was convicted as charged of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana (greater than 2.5 lbs.), money laundering ($20,000 – $99,000) and providing a false name to a law enforcement officer.
During the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office investigation that began in 2019, the narcotics agents seized more than 50 pounds of marijuana, all of which was displayed for the jury as evidence during the two-day trial.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know what you’re doing with all that marijuana if you’re not trying to distribute it,” Assistant District Attorney Michael Morales, standing over the mound of marijuana bags on the floor in front of the jury box, told jurors in closing argument Tuesday.
The agents opened the investigation after receiving information showing Nguyen’s wife was involved in illegal marijuana transactions. The investigation led the Jefferson Parish agents to Nguyen’s rented homes in the Gretna area, in the Gentilly area, Algiers, and Belle Chasse, according to trial testimony.
Nguyen conspired with others, some known and others unknown, to have marijuana shipped from Garden Grove, Calif., to Jefferson Parish through commercial carriers. The marijuana was contained in vacuum-sealed bags, which were contained in gold or green foil bags. Those, in turn, were packed in cardboard boxes that were lined with thin pieces of plywood, according to evidence presented to jurors.
The agents seized marijuana from several apartments, a storage unit and a UPS distribution center on the West Bank. One box, containing about seven pounds of marijuana, was mistakenly delivered to a Terrytown apartment, according to testimony. The shocked residents there called 911. They, too, were investigated and were cleared of criminal involvement, agents testified.
The agents recovered more than $8,000 in cash. They also found receipts for money orders and cashier’s checks totaling $46,000, all obtained in small monetary increments during a two-month period in 2019. Agents testified that such transactions are structured this way to not attract attention. The money was sent to a California bank, and Nguyen had a debit card from that same bank, according to trial evidence.
Under Louisiana law, money laundering is the possession of money that is the proceeds of a felony. When agents initially arrested Nguyen in January 2021, he provided a false name, leading to his conviction of that offense.
Nguyen, who required a Vietnamese-speaking interpreter, did not testify. Through his attorneys, he blamed his wife, Bich Nguyen, for being the marijuana dealer and asserted he had nothing to do with the criminal activities. However, agents obtained recordings of phone calls between the couple while he was jailed awaiting trial. In those calls, he directed his wife in matters of marijuana distribution, proving that he was involved in the conspiracy.
Bich Nguyen, 51, has twice pleaded guilty in connection with the marijuana distribution. In October 2020, she pleaded guilty as charged to conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana and money laundering ($20,000 – $99,000). She was given three years of probation.
However, her probation was revoked, and she was sentenced to the three years at hard labor after she was arrested again for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
The second arrest was in February 2021, when agents investigating her and her husband recovered marijuana in the Gretna-area apartment and in a storage unit. She pleaded guilty in May 2021 to conspiracy to distribute marijuana (greater than 2.5 lbs.) and possession with intent to distribute marijuana (greater than 2.5 lbs.). She received another 3-year prison sentence.
Two other men have pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation:
- Man Danh, 54, of Gretna, pleaded guilty in October 2020 to conspiracy to possess marijuana (less than 2.5 lbs.), money laundering ($20,000 – $99,000), and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He received a 5-year sentence.
- Nghia Hoaung, 41, of Belle Chasse, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to possession with intent to distribute marijuana (less than 2.5 lbs.). A 5-year prison sentence was suspended, and he was sentenced to three years of active probation.
Judge Frank Brindisi of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Long Nguyen on April 11.
Assistant District Attorney Gabrielle Hosli lead the prosecution of Long Nguyen with assistance of Michael Morales. Assistant District Attorney Joshua Vanderhooft prosecuted Bich Nguyen and Nghia Hoaung. Assistant District Attorney Rachel Africk prosecuted Man Danh.