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.

"Mr. Tang has been my friend for twenty years," says Busck, who declined to say why he took the money. "In those twenty years, he has never shown me any indication of any wrongdoing or anything I would consider inappropriate."

Sometime after that, Busck says he got a call from Carbone, with whom he was familiar from his time as mayor. "Officer Carbone called me and said to me that I was not going to be charged with anything. And I thanked him and I hung up," Busck remembers.

Meanwhile, Carbone was meeting weekly and discussing the investigation with Assistant United States Attorney Wayne Campbell, who was assigned to develop a case against the drug ring. One of three sergeants serving on the task force, this was Carbone's second stint; he'd also been a supervisor there in the 1990s.

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.

Campbell declined to discuss the leak, but says he's known Carbone "both professionally and personally" for eighteen years. Still, despite their weekly meetings, he says he didn't know Carbone was acquainted with Tang.


About two months after the bust, DEA agents showed up at North Metro headquarters in Thornton — but not to help with the Tang case. Having apparently cleared their own people of the leak, the agency had decided to investigate the task force members.

"They came into the task force and told us, 'You are all suspects,'" says one of the sources at North Metro. "They wanted to talk to all of us and wanted our cooperation."

The source wonders why an outside party such as the FBI wasn't conducting the inquiry, rather than an agency involved in the bust. The source also wonders why everyone at North Metro was allowed to continue working the case while they were being investigated for a potential confidentiality breach.

"The reaction was, 'Goddamn it, this is our place. Fuck no if someone is going to discredit our work,'" says the source, who cooperated with the DEA nevertheless. The ensuing investigation involved lengthy interviews, financial audits and polygraph tests.

"It was a very serious breach. I can tell you I have been in this chair for nineteen years now, and nothing has ever happened like this one," Campbell says.

The DEA eventually produced a lengthy report on its findings, a report that North Metro's board of governors — the chiefs of the seven police departments and Adams County Sheriff Darr — were given a chance to read at the DEA's Denver office one day last January. Only a few chose to do so, and none were allowed to keep a copy.

The fact that those who read it didn't take any action in response suggests there must not have been enough evidence to implicate anyone at North Metro, says Tom Gorman, director of the federal Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which oversees North Metro and other task forces in the region.

"In a situation where there appears to be a leak, let's say circumstances are such that it might look like one individual is involved," says Gorman. "But when you finish a very exhaustive investigation over a very long term, if I don't have enough to find somebody accountable, if I don't even have enough to take administrative action, you have to admit the evidence must be pretty circumstantial."

In April, the Broomfield City and County Attorney's Office, acting as legal counsel for North Metro, denied Westword's open-records request for the document on the grounds that it was "contrary to public interest" because it was a criminal justice record compiled for law enforcement. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department denied a similar request for the report.

"That investigation is ongoing; it is not closed," says Broomfield Chief of Police Tom Deland, speaking on behalf of North Metro. "We don't want to talk about that part of the investigation until it is all complete. They are all part of one investigation. The assumption is that when it is all wrapped up, the investigation will be made available."

But Sweetin, head of the Denver DEA office, says his agents have completed their investigation of North Metro. "The part that DEA did was really kind of an adjunct to the original case," he said in a January interview. "We have completed our investigation of that thread of this case."

For most of the past year, the result of the investigation into the grow house ring had seemed as uncertain as the internal search for the leak. In the weeks following the raids, only seven people were charged with crimes in U.S. District Court, a group that included Tang's brother Yue de Deng and his brother-in-law Xui Yun Li.

Those defendants could have faced five-year mandatory minimum sentences for cultivating 100 or more marijuana plants. But since the judges on the cases determined that the defendants met federal safety-valve provisions — such as being first-time offenders, not having used firearms and not being leaders in the operation — they imposed lesser sentences. Four of the defendants received prison terms of eighteen and thirty months, while a fifth got three years of probation. Yue de Deng got eighteen months and a $7,500 fine. A sixth defendant had all charges dropped, and the seventh is awaiting sentencing.

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