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Police Make Record Pot Bust: Grow OPs Worth $2.4M Linked To Asian Gangs.

By admin | October 3, 2004

by Leah Janzen,
Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba
03 Oct 2004

Winnipeg police have shut down two massive marijuana grow operations – — setting a record for the largest pot seizure this year in the process. Police said yesterday both operations appear to be the work of Asian gangs. On Wednesday, police executed a search warrant at a home at 75 Countryside Way in North Kildonan. Inside, police found 1,459 pot plants with an estimated street value of more than $1,634,000. They also recovered more than $10,000 worth of growing equipment.

“That’s a huge grow operation,” said Const. Shelly Glover of the Winnipeg Police Service. “It’s amazing how people can convert an entire home in a more prominent area of the city into a major grow operation.”

A 27-year-old man was arrested and charged with producing and processing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

He was released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.

It was the largest marijuana grow operation seizure in the city this year.

The day after that massive bust, police executed another search warrant at 1 Gonville Place in Fort Richmond. There, police found 650 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $728,000 and $15,000 worth of growing equipment.

Two men were arrested at the scene and charged with drug offences.

Phat Von Hoang, 45, of Winnipeg, was charged with producing and possessing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and theft of hydro.

The second unidentified man, 61, was released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.

In both cases, Glover said, police believe the operations were being managed by Asian gangs in the city.

None of the men arrested resided at the homes, which appear to have been used for nothing more than the grow operations. For months, city police and RCMP have been dealing with an explosion in large-scale hydroponic marijuana grow operations connected to an Asian-based organized crime network that extends across the country and around the world.

In the first six months of this year, more than 70 large indoor grow operations have been found in Manitoba, a sign the group appears to be well-organized in buying and financing newer residential homes and quickly converting them into clandestine grow houses.

Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski has said the rise in grow houses allegedly backed by Asian crime is putting a strain on police resources, as they now have to catch up to identify ringleaders and how entrenched they are in Winnipeg and other Canadian cities.

The RCMP, a city police Asian-organized-crime unit and Immigration Canada officials are trying to piece together how the group is interconnected and how some arrived in Canada.

To date, more than a dozen people — all claiming to have a Vietnamese background — have been arrested by RCMP and city police in connection with the spread of sophisticated marijuana-growing operations.

Police have said they believe the pot being grown in these operations is being grown not for local consumers, but to be smuggled into the United States.

There have been several huge busts in the city this year.

In early February, police discovered 520 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $873,000 at a Vineland Crescent home in Whyte Ridge.

Just a few weeks later, 668 plants with a street value of more than $1 million were found at a home on Eaglemere Drive in North Kildonan. And in March, 500 plants with a potential value of $800,000 were found at a home on Tilstone Bay in south St. Vital.

Dozens more have been uncovered in upscale neighbourhoods in all corners of the city this year.

In 2003, police busted 108 grow operations, roughly one every three or four days, worth a combined estimated street value of almost $12 million.

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