By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
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By Melanie Asmar
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
• According to transcripts from a later interview at the U.S. Attorney's Office on April 2, 2009, Tang said his attorney "had explained to him that he had committed a crime by providing moneys to friends and family, which was used for illegal activities (marijuana grows)." He added that he received marijuana proceeds in exchange for helping relatives buy houses for pot grows and falsely keeping them on the payroll at his restaurant.
• Records indicate that the restaurateur was associated with suspicious activities years earlier. In 2002, police at Denver International Airport stopped a man reportedly heading to Sacramento and found $51,637 taped to his ankles. The suspect said he worked at Pearl Wok, a Broomfield restaurant owned by Tang's brother Fayin Deng and registered under Tang's name with the secretary of state.
• In his April 2009 interview at the U.S. Attorney's Office, Tang reported that more than $500,000 seized by DEA agents was "skimmed restaurant receipts not reported on tax returns." He explained that the money was all the $50 and $100 bills from Heaven Dragon receipts, which amounted to roughly $10,000 a month. He added that he put unreported income skimmed from Heaven Dragon into a bank account that he'd used to buy the Armadillo restaurant in Broomfield, an establishment that would later become Heaven Star.
• In response to a DEA subpoena, Thornton auditors disclosed years of Heaven Dragon sales-tax returns showing that the restaurant reported an unusual jump in sales in March 2001, with profits steadily increasing since then. A Thornton analysis showed that Heaven Dragon's average monthly gross sales for 2007 was $163,219, more than twice the average for similarly sized restaurants. Auditors also noted that in 2002, the City of Thornton found evidence that Heaven Dragon had underreported more than $500,000 in sales, for which it assessed a $38,800 penalty.
• According to a confidential informant who worked with investigators during Operation Fortune Cookie, around the time Tang talked to investigators at DEA headquarters, he also attended a meeting of grow-ring members and told them to keep quiet about his involvement in the operation. According to the source, "Tang advised whoever remained quiet about his involvement with the organization; Tang would pay for that family's attorney fees and legal expenses."
• Despite this alleged offer, several suspects went on to describe Tang as the grow ring's bankroller — or, as defendant Sheng Huang put it, "the one that gives the money to others to fund the grows." In a March 2008 interview, a suspect associated with an Eagle Butte grow house told investigators that "[Dan] Tang provides $50,000 to assist with the purchase of grow equipment and down payments on homes used to grow marijuana with an agreement that Tang receives 20 percent of profits from the marijuana sold."
• Several suspects said they worked at Tang's restaurant before they got involved in the drug business. In October 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Eric Sen with marijuana cultivation and money laundering for his role in the drug operation. Months earlier, Sen had told investigators that after emigrating from China in 2000, he'd worked in one Chinese restaurant after another until he became a wok cook at Heaven Dragon in the summer of 2007. Three months later, Sen said, Tang gave him $50,000 and arranged for a realtor so he could buy a house on South Trail Blazer Road in Fort Lupton. Sen later told Tang that he'd started a marijuana grow there; according to the law-enforcement transcripts, "Dan Tang did not seem upset by this news and even stated that it was OK for Sen to pay back the money with marijuana profits."
• Ryan Shih, a realtor with All Pro Realty of Denver who admitted to helping grow-ring members purchase eighteen houses, told investigators that he'd worked for Tang as a cook at Heaven Dragon before he decided to get his broker's license. Shih noted that his boss at All Pro had done business with Tang and that Shih may have become involved with the grow ring because Tang had referred him to a couple of people. Shih has not been charged with any crime.
• Tang's wife, Xiu Ying Li, may also have played a role in the drug operation, according to documents, although so far, she's not facing any charges. Feyin Deng and Kelly Chuong told investigators that Li "wanted her side of the family to start profiting from the sale of marijuana." Later, in May 2009, Li told DEA agents that with her husband's knowledge, she had given her brother about $30,000 from Heaven Dragon proceeds to start a grow house on East 121st Place in Thornton, because she wanted to help her brother. Tang confirmed this arrangement in his U.S. Attorney's Office interview. Authorities found 186 marijuana plants and growing equipment at this address. Li also told agents that she provided roughly $50,000 in cash to Eric Sen to help him purchase a house in which he later installed a marijuana grow.
• Numerous reports describe suspects wiring or transporting money to China while they were being investigated. A few days after the busts, a confidential informant working with investigators reported that "Tang was attempting to get illegal money out of the state and out of the country. Tang is going to employ elder [sic] relatives to transport the money via a commercial airliner to China."