FRESNO — Authorities Thursday unsealed a federal grand jury indictment charging 13 people, eight of them from Modesto, in a drug-trafficking conspiracy that authorities say brought in more than $3 million.
The case is unusual, said Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the United States attorney's office, because of the amount of money generated and the sales of drugs across state lines.
On April 11, a federal grand jury returned a 29-count indictment charging the defendants with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances oxyco- done, hydrocodone and marijuana and conspiracy to structure cash transactions in order to avoid federal currency reporting requirements.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced in a news release that the indictment names the following defendants: Sarith Chim, 45; Sdey Chim, 40; Chanrath Yim Yath, 33; Chanrou Yath, 28; Phally Thach, 31; Raeb Chou, 23; Say Eng, 64; and Loc Huu Chau, 49, all of Modesto; Iris Stephanie Garcia, 24, of Lathrop; Chantha A. Chim, 42, of Murrieta; and Washington residents David Ruem, 31, of Tacoma; and Phary Chim, 30; and Cindy Comilang, 29, of Kent.
Most of the suspects have been arrested; four appeared in court on Thursday. Authorities still are looking for Sarith Chim, Thach, Loc Huu Chau and Raeb Chau.
According to the indictment, from October 2008 to April of this year, the defendants got prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone and medical marijuana cards from a doctor in Modesto and recruited other people do do the same in return for cash. On some occasions, the defendants would drive other individuals to the doctor and then collect their prescriptions and marijuana cards after they had visited the doctor. Court documents do not name the doctor, but refer to "Dr. X."
Horwood said authorities are not identifying the doctor, who has not been charged with a crime. "The investigation is continuing," she said, adding that there could be more suspects.
Authorities say the defendants filled the prescriptions at pharmacies in Modesto and shipped the drugs to customers in Washington, Massachusetts and Louisiana. Customers would pay by depositing money into the suspects' bank accounts, with all deposits $10,000 or less so that the banks would not file currency transaction reports required on transactions of $10,000 or more.
The defendants brought in more than $3,365,000 and withdrew more than $3,090,000 from the same bank accounts.
"These arrests have dismantled a well-organized drug trafficking network that had distribution systems from California to Massachusetts," Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano said in the release. "The successful outcome of this investigation can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise brought by each agency working together to achieve justice."
If convicted, the defendants could face up to 35 years in prison and fines of nearly $2 million.
Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.