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$12 million Colorado-based pot distribution ring busted; 32 face charges

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DENVER -- The Colorado Attorney General officially shut down a Colorado-based marijuana smuggling ring with a massive 67-page indictment. In all, 32 people have been charged with illegal interstate cannabis distribution.

For four years, the group, allegedly led by Tri Trong Nguyen, his wife and three sisters and dozens of other co-conspirators grew, shipped by car and skydiving planes, marijuana to other states. But the indictment says they took their pot mainly to Minnesota.

Investigators say the group called itself the Drug Transportation Organization. The DTO was charged with shipping more than 400 pounds of pot each month across state lines. It is accused of partnering with Joe Johnson and his Westside Skydiving Club to use his planes to fly the pot to the Twin Cities.

“We hope this will let those in the black and gray markets know they can’t avoid regulations and break Colorado laws, which allow for businesses to sell cannabis—both medical and for pleasure,” Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said.

The 52-count indictment charges the group with everything from tax evasion to interstate trafficking to growing as caregivers without permits. It’s estimated the four-year run for the DTO netted more than $12 million, which was laundered by purchasing money orders which were deposited in sums of under $3,000 sums to avoid detection according to investigators.

A nosy neighbor and traffic stops in neighboring states led to the collapse of the drug ring.

At one point, the group was also accused of trying to bribe police, fire and marijuana inspectors. When one official asked why not just go legal, kingpin Nguyen said, “I am making more money like this, why bother tearing out all my plants and starting over.”

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