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Ex-Shore Dweller Gets 20 Years for Indoor Marijuana Empire

A 39-year-old who once called Port Monmouth home will spend at least 10 years in prison, and perhaps as many as 20, for running what New Jersey investigators call the largest indoor-marijuana growing operation ever uncovered in the state.

Tuan Ahn Dang was sentenced in Ocean County Superior Court in Toms River. He pleaded guilty on April 15 to a first-degree count of leading a narcotics trafficking network.

Dang admitted growing a crop worth at least $10,000,000 in rented houses in Manahawkin, Barnegat, Manalapan, Old Bridge, Millstone and Monroe, and admitted that his business was international in scope.

“Marijuana production on this scale fuels drug trafficking in our communities and all of the secondary crimes and violence that accompany it,” said acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman in a prepared release. “This sentence reflects the serious nature of his offense.”

Dang is required to serve 10 years without possibility of parole. His girlfriend, Ngoc Bui, 38, of Old Bridge, is due for sentencing October 1 for her guilty plea to maintaining or operating a marijuana production facility. Prosecutors will recomment five years, including two without parole eligibility.

Discovery of the opearation began with the February 2010 arrest of Thu N. Nguyen, 48, a naturalized Canadian citizen, at a home in Monroe. Police reports detailed the odor of burning marijuana stems wafting from the chimney. Local and state police say they found 1,046 marijuana plants inside.

The discovery led to the execution of 10 search warrants at the various homes. Authorities say they seized 3,370 growing plants, 130 pounds of harvested marijuana, and $66,000 in cash, along with a vast array of indoor growing, lighting and irrigation equipment.

Dang, Nguyen, Bui and Tin Pham, 44, formerly of Sayreville, were indicted the following November. Pham was originally charged with mortgage fraud related to occupation of one of the houses used to grow the weed. Charges against Nguyen and Pham are pending.

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