A federal judge has punished an Orange County man who illegally supplied Ecstasy tablets and cocaine for party-goers in Southern California and Colorado.
Special Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used court-approved wiretaps in 2008 to catch Thinh Cao Do arranging for Ecstasy and cocaine sales as well as collecting proceeds from his Denver distributor, Daniel Buning.
Do and Buning allegedly spoke in code about the transactions, but DEA agents easily unraveled the content of conversations, including plans for a $59,000 payoff Buning made to Do in Feb. 2008 at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Neither man knew they were under federal surveillance until a raid on Buning's Denver residence recovered 30,000 Ecstasy pills and 493 grams of cocaine.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for Do, who was born in 1977 and arrested in Rosemead, to receive a sentence of at least 87 months.
But after a series of discussions made in secret, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna gave the drug dealer a huge break.
This month, Selna dismissed a count, handed Do a prison term of 63 months and, in a third, unexplained generous move, gave him until noon on Aug. 19 to self surrender to the Bureau of Prisons, according to the judgment order.
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Buning, who was born in 1968 and is free on $10,000 bail, changed his plea to guilty in May, but the federal prosecutor in his case also sealed from public view the terms of the deal.
According to court records, federal agents launched asset forfeiture proceedings to keep a 2005 Mercedes-Benz used by Do but belonging to one of his acquaintances, a San Gabriel woman. The woman claimed she had no idea of Do's drug dealing and fought the government's action. In a negotiated settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, she won the return of her vehicle.