Seattle WA May 9 2017 A veteran Seattle police officer has been charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana along with three other people federal agents say were part of a large-scale drug-smuggling operation responsible for delivering at least 100 kilograms of marijuana to the East Coast.
According to a 15-page complaint unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court, Officer Alex Chapackdee — part of a five-member community policing team in the department’s South Precinct — is charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana along with Tuan Van Le, Samath Khanhphontgphane and Phi Nguyen in what a federal task force is referring to as the “Tuan Van Le Drug Trafficking Network.”
The complaint alleges that Chapackdee and others were “regularly smuggling large amounts of marijuana from the Western District of Washington to locations on the East Coast, including but not limited to locations in the Baltimore, Maryland, area.”
The charges allege that cocaine was also involved, although the complaint does not list a charge for cocaine trafficking.
The charges detail six such trips since September, including one that involved meeting a known drug dealer in Baltimore who was arrested minutes later in possession of nearly 200 pounds of marijuana. He later cooperated with police and said Le and the others had fronted him the marijuana and expected to be paid.
The charges said the investigation is ongoing.
The department announced Chapackdee’s arrest last week. He has been placed on administrative leave without pay, police said.
Chapackdee and the other three defendants appeared Monday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida in Seattle. Chapackdee was ordered held pending a detention hearing on Friday.
More than two dozen supporters of the officer crowded into the courtroom.
The penalty for conspiracy to distribute marijuana carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison with a maximum of up to 40 years. A conviction can also result in a fine of up to $5 million.
On Monday, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole issued a statement about the arrest, calling Chapackdee’s conduct “disgraceful and disappointing.”
“While always disturbing to investigate one of our own, I am proud of the detectives and commanders who worked diligently on this case,” the statement said. “While he will have his due process in the courts, I hope these charges demonstrate to our community that SPD will not tolerate corrupt behavior in our ranks.”
According to the charging documents, Chapackdee, 44, is Tuan Van Le’s brother-in- law, and a confidential informant told agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency that Chapackdee provided the operation with “information on arrests and investigations that may be connected” to the operation.
Le, of Maple Valley, allegedly paid the officer $10,000 a month “to keep an eye on all of Tuan Van Le’s marijuana grow houses,” and used him as muscle to transport money collected on the East Coast back to Seattle.
The charges said he would be paid an additional $15,000 for every trip made back to Baltimore. Chapackdee and others would often travel from Seattle to Baltimore in the officer’s RV.
The investigation has been going on since 2015 and started in the FBI’s Washington, D.C., division, the charges say.
Chapackdee has been under surveillance since at least 2016, when the local FBI opened a public-corruption case in addition to the drug investigation. The investigation included the placement of a camera hidden on a utility pole outside his Seattle apartment and warrants to monitor his phone calls and track his cellphone signal, allowing the task force to track his trips back east.
According to the Seattle Police Department’s South Precinct web page, Chapackdee is assigned to a unit whose officers “focus on long-term and chronic problems in specific neighborhoods — problems that are often outside the bounds of regular patrol work.”
“It is their job to understand the ongoing problems and concerns of neighbors and businesses,” presumably including illegal drugs.
Seattle city payroll information indicates Chapackdee joined the SPD in 2000 and holds the rank of patrol officer.