Fort Walton Beach man sentenced for role in trafficking thousands of pounds of marijuana
PENSACOLA — A Fort Walton Beach man was sentenced Wednesday to 78 months in federal prison following his August 2020 conviction on drug and money laundering conspiracy charges, according to Lawrence Keefe, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
Kevin C. Bui was the last of four local conspirators sentenced in connection with trafficking thousands of pounds of marijuana into North Florida from California and laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars back to their supplier in California, according to a news release from Keefe's office.
“This man and his co-conspirators polluted North Florida with their drugs, then laundered the proceeds to be shipped out of state. Their federal prison sentences are key to disrupting and dismantling this drug trafficking organization,” Keefe said in the news release.
After a 14-month investigation by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, all five defendants have been sentenced for their roles in the multi-state drug trafficking and money laundering organization that operated in Florida, California and elsewhere, according to the release.
Bui and three other local defendants conspired with a fifth defendant — the organization’s California-based source of supply — to mail thousands of pounds of marijuana into the region.
In exchange, the local defendants funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash through bank accounts and purchased money orders and cashier’s checks at local grocery and convenience stores with marijuana trafficking proceeds in order to transfer the money back to the source in California, the release said.
During the execution of search and arrest warrants, law officers seized thousands of dollars, jewelry, controlled substances and other items of significant value.
Bui and his co-conspirators each were charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Bui’s co-conspirators all pleaded guilty to the charges, while Bui was convicted by a federal jury last August.
The other four defendants were:
• Phi T. Nguyen of Fort Walton Beach, sentenced to 120 months in federal prison
• Larry Millard Harrison II of Mary Esther, sentenced to 84 months in federal prison
• Philip H. Ly of Mary Esther, sentenced to 60 months in federal prison
• Hoang B. Pham of Temple City, California, sentenced to 40 months in federal prison.
The prosecutions resulted from an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operation that since the beginning of 2017 targeted the organization responsible for the distribution of marijuana throughout North Florida.
The sentences resulted from the collaborative work of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorneys David L. Goldberg and Lazaro P. Fields prosecuted the cases.