Rifle man sentenced for 2,000-plant marijuana grow operation
A man charged with operating an illegal marijuana grow field in Rifle was sentenced to 7 years in federal prison Monday.
Long Luong, also known as Peter, pleaded guilty May 21 for participating in a conspiracy that involved between 400 and 700 kilograms, or between 800 and 1,542 pounds of marijuana.
Senior U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger also ordered Luong to pay $30,000 and serve 5 years supervised release during his sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse in Grand Junction.
Luong was one of three codefendants charged with conspiracy to grow and distribute more than 1,000 kg of marijuana and 1,000 or more marijuana plants.
According to court documents, including the stipulated facts in Luong’s plea agreement, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration learned of a large outdoor marijuana grow operation in Rifle on Sept. 16, 2016.
Agents confirmed the existence of the operation and began surveillance. Heung Yu Wong, a co-defendant in the case, owned the property where the grow operation was located. The Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Task Force (TRIDENT) assisted in the investigation.
The day after starting surveillance, agents observed numerous individuals harvesting marijuana plants and loading them into a large truck.
A short while later, agents observed many of these individuals attempting to flee from the grow operation, and stepped in to arrest several individuals, including Luong and his wife, Guoying Tang, another codefendant.
Federal agents found 2,420 large, mature marijuana plants on the property.
Despite the arrest, Luong and Tang conspired again with others to set up another grow operation in southwestern Colorado.
Luong, while supervising at least five others, harvested this field and loaded it onto two large trucks. Agents apprehended one of the trucks on Sept. 23, 2017, and found 50 kg, or 110 pounds, of freshly harvested marijuana destined for Grand Junction.
Agents searched Luong’s Grand Junction home and found 179 marijuana plants, as well as a 9mm Beretta handgun hidden in a clothes hamper in the master bedroom.
“The DEA is committed to protecting our communities by working alongside our state and local law enforcement partners to identify and target the most significant threats to the public safety,” said Deanne Reuter, acting DEA special agent in charge.
“Long Luong ran a massive illegal marijuana grow operation that flagrantly and grossly violated both federal and state law. The DEA will continue to target these large illegal grow operations that seek profit over the public well-being,” Reuter said.
“The cultivation of marijuana for the black market is an issue this office and our law enforcement partners continue to aggressively pursue,” U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said. “The defendant will now face the consequences of growing and distributing this illegal product.”
Codefendants Tang and Wong have also made guilty pleas, and are awaiting sentencing.
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Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said he has never seen a case where arrest documents were not filed within 48 hours.