Valley smuggler pleads guilty to federal crimes

San Jose man is latest to plead in 2018 plan to traffic 92 pounds of marijuana from Fresno to Missouri

FRESNO — A San Jose man pleaded guilty last week for his part to smuggle 92 pounds of marijuana from the Central Valley across state lines.

On Nov. 30, 56-year-old Tien Van Phan of the San Jose pleaded guilty in federal court in Fresno to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana that was shipped from Fresno to Kansas City, Mo. On Nov. 9, 2018, law enforcement agents saw Phan load two suitcases into a vehicle in Kansas City. Officers later pulled over the vehicle, arrested Phan and seized 92 pounds of marijuana.

The vehicle was owned by Halen Steven Patrick Frazier of Kingsville, Mo. who was part of a Central Valley-based marijuana trafficking conspiracy. According to court documents, agents with the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force intercepted calls between Frazier and co-defendants Elias Zambrano Jr. of Fresno; Tan Minh Vo, of San Jose and David Agustus McGowan of Kansas City, Mo., regarding the coordination of the large shipment of marijuana to Frazier in Kansas City.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said Phan is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 22, 2021. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Frazier previously entered a guilty plea to the drug conspiracy and was sentenced to two years and three months in prison. Patrick Maldonado of Madera, Calif. and Zambrano, who also face charges relating to the cocaine and firearms, along with Vo, are scheduled for a status conference in federal court in Fresno on Dec. 14. As to these defendants, the charges are only allegations; they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force consisting of agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Sheriff’s Offices of Tulare, Kings, and Fresno Counties, the Fresno Police Department, the Arizona Department of Health, and the Kansas City Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Start typing and press Enter to search