Alex Chapackdee, a 17-year department veteran, is accused of helping his brother-in-law and others smuggle at least hundreds of pounds of marijuana to the East Coast.
A Seattle police officer accused of smuggling hundreds of pounds of marijuana from Washington to Baltimore will be held in detention pending trial after a federal grand jury indicted him and three others on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering.
Alex Chapackdee, 43, a 17-year department veteran, is accused by the grand jury in an indictment handed up Wednesday, along with his brother-in-law, Tuan Van Le, who federal agents say was the ringleader of a coast-to-coast marijuana-smuggling operation. Two other men, Smath Khanhphongphane and Phi Nguyen, also were charged.
Chapackdee was scheduled to appear Monday for a preliminary hearing before a U.S. magistrate judge to see if the government had enough evidence to send the case to trial. The indictment forgoes the need for that hearing.
In the meantime, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida ordered all four defendants detained pending trial.
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Chapackdee is on leave without pay from his job as a member of a neighborhood policing team in the city’s South Precinct.
He was charged in a sealed complaint May 5 with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. The indictment handed up Wednesday adds a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. It also seeks forfeiture of property and cash, primarily from Le, including more than $202,000 in cash, a 2004 Bentley Turbo coupe luxury car, and property in Maple Valley, which the government alleges were bought with illegal drug proceeds.
Chapackdee and the others each face mandatory-minimum five-year prison sentences and fines of up to $5 million if convicted of the smuggling charge. Money laundering carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and possible fines of $250,000.
The charges alleged that Chapackdee and others were “regularly smuggling large amounts of marijuana” from Western Washington to the East Coast, including Baltimore.
The investigation has been going on since 2015 and started in the FBI’s Washington, D.C., division, the charges say. In 2016, upon learning from a confidential source that a Seattle police officer was involved, the FBI in Seattle opened a public-corruption case, which has run parallel to the drug investigation.
Chapackdee has been under surveillance since at least 2016. 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.
The charges allege the group made at least six smuggling trips since September, including one that involved meeting a known Baltimore drug dealer 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 drugs and expected to be paid, according to the charges.
According to the charging documents, Chapackdee 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 to Seattle.
The charges said he would be paid an additional $15,000 for every trip made to Baltimore. Chapackdee and others would often travel from Seattle to Baltimore in the officer’s RV, prosecutors allege.