Agents from the Dakota County Drug Task Force took a “substantial” amount of marijuana off the market when they raided five homes in the southern suburbs in late May and found sophisticated grow operations at the ones in Shakopee and Apple Valley. At least a dozen bags of pot and more than $140,000 in cash also were seized.
Four people allegedly involved in the operation were charged late Friday, all with second-degree conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime.
Thi An Mac, 31, of Burnsville; Trung Van Nguyen, 39, of Apple Valley, and Nghia Hoang Nguyen, 31, of St. Paul, are each charged with two counts. Trang Uyen Mac, 35, of Burnsville, is charged with one count.
The investigation in Dakota and Scott counties started after a neighbor of one of the grow houses complained to police about the strong odor of marijuana.
The alleged operators of the grow houses — which require large amounts of electricity — had installed devices to bypass the electric meters, a maneuver that authorities said is quite dangerous to do.
After the power company installed a monitor on the house in the 6400 block of Oxford Road in Shakopee, it showed that the amount of power going into the home in a 10-day period was 2½ times higher than the meter had recorded in the previous month, according to criminal complaints filed in the cases.
A monitor on the house in the 7200 block of 130th Street in Apple Valley — listed as Trung Nguyen’s home — showed usage 56 times higher than the meter reading, the complaints said.
In the two grow houses, authorities found a total of 370 plants and several baggies of harvested marijuana, the criminal complaints said.
They also found suitcases belonging to Nghia Nguyen and Thi Mac, Mac’s wallet with her driver’s license, and a vehicle registered in her name.
An expert estimated that the marijuana plants could have produced anywhere from 44 to 120 pounds of marijuana, depending on growing conditions.
In a search of a home in the 13100 block of Highpointe Curve in Burnsville, which is listed in the complaints as the home of Trang Mac and Thi Mac, agents found about four pounds of marijuana in heat-sealed bags and $126,532 in cash.
Another $15,500 cash and a few pieces of marijuana were found when deputies stopped a car driven by Trang Mac with Thi Mac in the passenger seat.
Six vehicles also were seized.
The complaints said the Mac women are sisters. It does not say if the Nguyen men are brothers.
Task Force agents dubbed the operation “Charlotte’s Web,” probably not after the children’s book but after a strain of marijuana marketed in Colorado and California, where the drug has been legalized, said Dakota County Chief Deputy Tim Leslie.