U.S attorney charges Maple Valley resident

Man charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana

Tuan Van Le, 42, of Maple Valley was charged by the United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes with one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

Along with Le, three other men were also charged including Alex Chapackdee, 44, a 16 year veteran with the Seattle Police Department; Phi Nguyen, 38; and Samath Khanhphongphane, 38.

Chapackdee is Le’s brother-in-law and Nguyen is Le’s nephew.

All four men were scheduled to make their first court appearance May 8 at the U.S. District Court in Seattle.

“The trafficking of hundreds of pounds of marijuana from Washington to the streets of Baltimore will not be tolerated,” Hayes said in a media release. “Drug trafficking organizations that ignore federal and state laws have always been and will continue to be targeted and held to account. The fact that a police officer was involved in this is obviously of particular concern.”

An investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Seattle Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI’s Public Corruption Squad determined Le made numerous trips from Seattle to Baltimore, Md. from June 2013 until April 2017.

During the April 2017 trip, roughly 200 pounds of marijuana was seized, charging documents stated.

April 16 surveillance footage from Chapackdee’s house showed individuals loading marijuana from a van into an RV.

Chapackdee along with Nguyen and Khanhphongphane left the following day for their cross-country trip to Maryland, while Le flew from Sea-Tac International Airport to Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

Le was seen meeting with a known drug trafficker at his residence in Maryland and then later at a restaurant.

During the morning of April 19, investigators saw the RV arrive at the Maryland residence. Boxes were then unloaded from the RV to the residence.

A SUV was seen leaving the residence and was later pulled over for a traffic violation. Charging documents stated the driver appeared to be nervous and a pungent odor was emanating from the vehicle.

A drug sniffing K-9 unit arrived on scene and alerted officers of a positive presence of illicit narcotics.

A search of the vehicle found two cardboard boxes with 17 large heat-sealed bags of marijuana. Five pills suspected to be oxycodone hydrochloride were found on the driver.

Back at the residence, the known drug trafficker and another male were seen loading five cardboard boxes into a SUV. As they were leaving the residence, they were stopped. A search of the boxes in the vehicle and a box at his home found 184 pounds of marijuana.

In the evening of April 19 Le, Chapackdee, Nguyen and Khanhphongphane left a hotel and headed west. Surveillance video showed Chapackdee arriving at his home around 11:15 p.m. April 21 and Le arrived at his home around 11:45 p.m. that day.

Since the Maryland drug trafficker was arrested, he has been helping law enforcement by making a number of recorded calls to Le.

On May 4 Le told him he would be traveling to Maryland to visit him. The charging documents stated investigators were not sure if he was going to pick up money owed to him or if he would also be bringing a new shipment of marijuana with him.

This April trip was consistent with the many other trips Le and his associates made. Often times Le would fly across country while his associates would drive nonstop from the West Coast to East Coast.

According to charging papers, the vehicles allegedly carried the marijuana to the Baltimore area and then would carry cash back to the Seattle area.

Chapackdee also participated in many of these cross-country trips in September, October and November 2016. Along with helping distribute the drugs, documents stated that Chapackdee would provide Le with information regarding arrests and investigations connected to Le’s organization.

The documents stated Le paid Chapackdee $15,000 for every cross country trip he made and reportedly paid him $10,000 per month to keep an eye on Le’s marijuana grow houses in Seattle along with providing him with information.

The media release stated the charge of conspiracy to distribute marijuana is punishable by a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to 40 years.

According to the charging documents, Le was arrested in 2002 by the DEA for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. He was sentenced in that incident to 21 months in federal prison.