Deconstructing Colorado's largest indoor pot bust

As described in this week's feature story, "Tales of the Dragon," prominent Thornton restaurateur Dan Tang has agreed to plead guilty to one count of money laundering for his involvement in a massive marijuana ring -- even though authorities believed Tang had much more involvement than just money laundering in what they'd labeled "the Dan Tang Drug Trafficking Organization."

The drug ring was taken down as part of "Operation Fortune Cookie," a thirty-hour-plus dragnet on February 16 and 17, 2008, that involved more than a hundred police officers and DEA agents. When the dust settled, authorities had obtained more than 24,000 marijuana plants hidden in 25 north metro homes -- the largest indoor pot bust in state history. The video above, taken during one of the raids, as well as other extensive documentation obtained by Westword shed new light on the case. Check out the dirt below.

Here's a clip from one of the wiretaps investigators had set up to monitor suspected grow ring leaders. Authorities used translators fluent in Chinese dialects, and according to court documents, they determined that "vegetables" was a code word for marijuana.

On February 14, investigators listening in on wiretaps heard that the grow ring was being dismantled; someone had sent Tang an anonymous tip-off letter alerting him about the investigation. Realizing Operation Fortune Cookie had been compromised, law enforcement raided the grow ring much earlier than planned and discovered the letter at one of the houses. Click here to read the letter that started it all.

Police officers and DEA agents had never seen anything like the grow houses they raided during Operation Fortune Cookie -- thousands of pot plants squirreled away in basements tricked-out in expensive grow technology. Some of the grow houses were already being dismantled thanks to the tip-off letter. Click here to see a slideshow of photos taken during the raids.

We'll be posting other details about the bust over the next few days. Check back to learn more about Operation Fortune Cookie.