The treatment of Vietnamese Canadians in our Justice System is highly disproportionate. I highly doubt this kind of sentence would have been handed down to two Canadians of European decent. The fact is there were no weapons, no booby-traps and no criminal records, just a couple of Vietnamese people running a medium scale grow facility. This kind of systemic racism, common in BC, seems to have spread to Ontario. 5 1/2 years for growing marijuana is absolutely preposterous.
By Andrew Seymour, The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Two brothers who pleaded guilty to running a large scale marijuana grow operation have each been sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison — sentences which are among the stiffest handed out to illegal pot producers in Ontario.
Court heard Duc Bui, 39, and Ha Bui, 35, were motivated by nothing more than greed when they set up their operation out of houses in the Ottawa area before selling the marijuana produced to distributors locally, provincial, nationally and internationally. They were arrested in August 2008 following a massive undercover police operation involving the Ottawa police, RCMP, OPP and US Drug Enforcement Agency dubbed Operation Scarecrow.
The investigation, which began in 2007, involved wiretaps and surveillance as well as the execution of search warrants on six houses being used to produce the marijuana.
“There is no doubt here we have a sophisticated criminal organization. It was a business venture for these people. It was their job, their career and it was a very profitable one,” said Ontario Court Justice Ann Alder before sentencing the two men, who both came to Canada from Vietnam.
Alder said the grow operations were “perfect production line operations” capable of producing crops on a staggered basis so as not to interrupt the availability of finished product. The productions, which were located in residential homes, also bypassed hydro hook-ups.
Despite having no prior criminal records, Alder said she needed to send a message to the two men and others like them that anyone involved in the growing and distribution of marijuana who participate in a criminal organization will receive a lengthy period of incarceration.
“This type of sentence is required in light of the danger and the terrible consequences to communities caused by these offences,” she said. “Sentences have to be substantial because people are drawn to these activities by the huge profits that are available to be made.”
Alder said the quantities of both marijuana and money involved in the operation were “substantial.”
Court heard police seized more than $17,000 in cash after they searched Duc Bui’s home and stopped Ha Bui with more than $81,000 in cash as he drove to Toronto.
At the time of their arrests, police seized more than 1,500 plants from two houses run by Duc Bui, while another 317 plants were seized in a home run by Ha Bui. Police also covertly traced the sale of four crops from a Barrhaven home to various distributors.
Alder found both men, who each pleaded guilty to directing a criminal operation as well as conspiracy to produce and traffic marijuana, were “directing forces” and on about the same level in the criminal organization.
According to Alder, Duc Bui directed grow operations at two houses, purchased supplies and was involved to some extent in the distribution of the finished product. He was also in the process of making arrangements to send growing equipment to Czechoslovakia to set up an operation there.
Ha Bui, who also pleaded guilty to possession of the proceeds of crime, was a “production manager” who maintained the properties, bought supplies, monitored the quality of plants, gave orders and received daily calls about operations. He also set up deals and helped determine the price to charge.
“They were at it a couple of years and were generating a crop of about 30 lbs. every three months,” federal Crown prosecutor Rod Sonley said outside of court, adding the group received a minimum of $1,300 for each pound sold. “The street level impact would be a lot higher,” he said.
Sonley said there was evidence the money was being sent to Vietnam, although the amounts were never confirmed.
Alder said the criminal organization didn’t appear to be violent, but she couldn’t “ignore the violence that is associated with drug trafficking and drug abuse” when sentencing the two men, who were sentenced separately with the assistance of an interpreter.
Court heard Duc Bui came to Canada in 1996, while his brother, Ha Bui, arrived in 2000. Both men worked for the family-owned cleaning business prior to being sent to jail.
Each man was given credit for three months in custody before receiving the additional 5 1/2 year prison term. They each received two-and-a-half year sentences on the conspiracy charges and an additional three year sentence for being member of criminal organization. Under the law, the criminal organization sentences must be served consecutively.
To date, the Bui brothers have received the harshest sentences of the 27 people charged in connection with Project Scarecrow. Their main broker, Maurice Chan, was sentenced to five years in prison. The lowest sentence handed out was eight months.
Duc Bui’s wife, Mai Anh Vu, 39, has also pleaded guilty to being a member of a criminal organization, as well as conspiracy to traffic and produce marijuana. No sentencing date has been set. Ha Bui’s business partner, Tich Sing Mac, has also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in February.