A multimillion-dollar weed ring goes down -- and threatens to take a prominent restaurant owner with it

The bust was almost blown after an internal leak, and Dan Tang -- his Heaven Dragon Chinese food beloved local politicians -- was implicated.

Once there, Tang explained to police that he'd been holding the money for his brother Fayin Deng and Deng's wife, Kelly Chuong, according to a U.S. District Court criminal complaint filed against Deng and Chuong. Tang said the couple had been giving him proceeds from the drug operation in $50,000 increments so that the three of them could finance the purchase of a strip mall in northern Colorado.

Tang elaborated on his involvement in a February 27, 2008, police interview, according to the Adams County affidavit. In it, he admits to financing grow houses since April 2007 by lending hundreds of thousands of dollars to his brothers and their associates. He also says he provided false employment records at his restaurant for several drug ring members, held large sums of money for his colleagues and received considerable profits for his help.

Sources close to the case say they made another discovery during the Adams Street encounter with Tang, one not mentioned in court documents: According to a witness who was there, Tang embraced Carbone and said, "Dante, I'm so scared."

Dan Tang in 2004, with his photo of George Bush.
Dan Tang in 2004, with his photo of George Bush.
Weiyin Deng, one of six brothers, faces several marijuana-growing charges
Weiyin Deng, one of six brothers, faces several marijuana-growing charges

Details

Check out a map of the Operation Fortune Cookie raids and a followup on one of the former drug homes at blogs.westword.com/latestword.

"That was big," says the North Metro investigator. "We all said, 'What just happened?'" Up to that point, sources say, Carbone had never suggested to his North Metro colleagues that he knew one of the main targets in the investigation he was helping to supervise.

Osborne disputes the claim that Tang embraced Carbone, but acknowledges that the two men know each other and that Carbone has been a frequent customer at Tang's restaurant for more than twenty years. "It's a common lunch spot for Thornton PD officers and detectives," he says. "And when officers would come in, Dan Tang would make a point of greeting them." Osborne also says that Carbone had told North Metro investigators, the DEA and the U.S. Attorney's Office many times that "he was a customer at the restaurant and knew Dan Tang from the restaurant."

When Tang greeted Carbone at the Adams Street house, Osborne says, Carbone told him, "You're in a whole lot of trouble" and later handcuffed him.

Asked about his connection with Carbone, Tang told Westword that he wouldn't consider them friends, but acknowledged, "I know him. He's eaten here before." Tang referred all other questions about the case to attorney Gene Ciancio, who declined to provide additional information except to call last week's charge against Tang "the first step to getting to the truth."

On the night of the raid, there wasn't much time to consider the relationship between Tang and Carbone, however. Soon everyone was distracted by another bombshell, one coming from DEA agents raiding a nearby apartment on York Street.

They'd found the tip-off letter.


The typed letter, folded in an envelope that looked like it had been addressed by someone writing with the wrong hand, was addressed to Dan Tang.

'I know what you're doing," read the anonymous letter, which was described to Westword by five sources close to the case. "You can, with assistance, avoid prosecution, deportation and seizure of all your assets."

To prove the letter wasn't a joke, its author described recent incidents involving certain suspects in the case — knowledge that seemed to come straight from the investigation's surveillance reports. The letter included a phone number Tang could call.

"I literally almost threw up on my shoes," says the North Metro investigator who helped coordinate the raids that night. "It was such a fucking cop. Everybody knew it."

Tang's past relationships with other Adams County law-enforcement officials and politicians associated with the task force were also beginning to make some North Metro members nervous.

On July 18, 2006, for example, election records show Tang donated $500 as well as meals for a fundraising luncheon for Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr, who happens to be a member of the board of governors that oversees North Metro. Darr says he gave the money back as soon as he heard that Tang was under investigation. "I was concerned," he says. "I am the county sheriff. I cannot be in a position where I would be associated with someone believed to be involved with a criminal enterprise."

Adams County District Attorney Don Quick donated money to Darr's campaign on the day of that event and attended another Heaven Dragon fundraiser, on September 14, 2007, for Adams County Commissioner W. R. "Skip" Fischer. This one took place several months after North Metro began its investigation — an awkward situation for Quick, as he's now prosecuting several of the Operation Fortune Cookie cases.

"I've been to Dan Tang's restaurant maybe five or six times," says Quick, adding that he didn't know about the investigation at the time of the fundraiser. "I didn't have any issues such as I was close to him or he was a friend or he was a campaign supporter." As soon as he did learn about the investigation, Quick says he directed his staff to stay away from Tang's restaurant.

The strangest connection involves former Thornton mayor Noel Busck, a current RTD boardmember and the first politician to be honored with a photo on Heaven Dragon's wall. Not long after the Fortune Cookie raids, Tang asked Busck to look after $400,000 for him, according to the May Adams County arrest affidavit, which notes that the former mayor held the money overnight before returning it.

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