'Operation Golden Gofer' busts historic Colo.-Minnesota pot pipeline – Minneapolis Star Tribune
A major Colorado drug-smuggling operation that posed as a legal provider of medical marijuana sometimes used sky-diving planes to carry the pot to Minnesota, according to authorities in Denver.
Several Minnesotans, either still living here or recent arrivals in Colorado, are accused of playing significant roles in the 32-person, multimillion-dollar enterprise. Minnesota’s prominence in the pot pipeline was reflected in the name authorities gave to the sting — “Operation Golden Gofer.’’
“This investigation shut down one of the largest and most sophisticated criminal enterprises uncovered since Colorado voters passed Amendment 20 [legalizing medical marijuana] in 2000,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman. “Illegal drug dealers are simply hiding in plain sight, attempting to use the legalized market as a cover.”
The pot ring posed as a medical marijuana caregiver in Colorado — where medicinal and recreational use of the drug is legal — as they trafficked in tens of thousands of pounds of the substance, sending large shipments to Minnesota, Coffman’s office said.
After the planes landed and delivered the pot, they flew cash payments back to Colorado, according to investigators.
Charged with leading the multistate operation was Coloradan Tri Trong Nguyen, 39.
“At one point, Nguyen explored becoming a legitimate grower by merging his operations with a licensed dispensary,” Coffman said. “But when Nguyen was told he would have to cut down his existing marijuana crop and start the business again in accordance with Colorado law, he responded that he was making too much money doing what he was doing and he walked away from the deal — choosing the more lucrative black market over the white market.”
Joseph Johnson, a conspirator based in Winsted, Minn., confessed to being a“gofer” for the operation by using his sky-diving business and a vehicle to transport hundreds of pounds of marijuana from Boulder to Minnesota aboard his planes.
Last June, Johnson was intercepted in Kansas with about 60 pounds of pot in his vehicle and $330,000 in cash, authorities said. He agreed to help the DEA gather evidence against his co-conspirators to reduce his punishment.
The primary shipment recipient in Minnesota was Thomas “C.T.” Dispanet … – Click Here To Visit Article Source