Seattle police officer indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, money laundering

by: KIRO 7 News Staff Updated:

UPDATE: Alex Chapackdee, 43, a 17-year Seattle police department veteran, was indicted by a federal grand jury on three charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering. 

Chapackdee and two others were accused of smuggling hundreds of pounds of marijuana from Seattle to the East Coast.

Tuan Van Le, Chapackdee's brother-in-law, was named as the ringleader of the operation by federal agents. Two other men, Smath Khanhphongphane and Phi Nguyen, also were charged.

All four defendants are being detained pending trial.

Chapackdee is on leave without pay; he was part of a neighborhood policing team in the city’s South Precinct.

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A Seattle police officer was paid thousands of dollars in an elaborate drug operation that moved large shipments of marijuana from Seattle to the East Coast, and also was paid to oversee his brother-in-law's grow houses in the Northwest, according to the FBI.

KIRO 7 was first to report the officer’s name, Alex Chapackdee. He was arrested Saturday, May 6, in an investigation that involved Seattle police, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and Homeland Security.

Chapackdee was charged in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to distribute marijuana along with three others: Tuan Van Le, his brother-in-law; Samath Khanhphongphane; and Phi Nguyen.

KIRO 7 will continue to follow this case, having coverage of Chapackdee’s Monday court hearing and updates from the FBI on KIRO 7 News from 5-6:30 p.m. Watch with us on TV or use this link for the KIRO 7 News livestream.


QUICK FACTS

- FBI says operation took drugs from Seattle to the East Coast

- Nearly 200 pounds of marijuana found last month in Maryland

- Investigation started with informant tip in 2015

- Officer on unpaid leave, charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana

- Get continued updates in push alerts on the KIRO 7 News app


Chapackdee graduated from Rainier Beach High School in 1991 and was hired by Seattle police in 2000. He spent years in the South Precinct and was part of the precinct's highly regarded Community Police Team. He is now on unpaid administrative leave.

The FBI said Chapackdee became involved through his brother-in-law, Tuan Van Le, who investigators said paid works in the drug organization. Chapackdee is alleged to have been paid to oversee Van Le’s grow houses and provide law enforcement information.

Chapackdee and the others “are 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,” FBI Special Agent Mark Nakatsu wrote in charging documents.

He is part of the FBI’s Public Corruption and Organized Crime Squad.

Nakatsu said some of those charged drove the pot directly to the East Coast, “typically without stopping except to get gas or food, and then returning in the same manner, likely with the cash proceeds.”

The FBI was first tipped to the alleged operation in June or July 2015 by an informant to the Washington, D.C., division. The information said Van Le regularly traveled from Seattle to Virginia and Maryland to sell powder cocaine.

“Tuan Van Le travels with 6-10 other Asian individuals on different flights and days to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) on one-way tickets,” Nakatsu wrote. “The Tuan Van Le DTO (Drug Trafficking Organization) has the powder cocaine delivered by truck from Seattle to New York. Once in New York, a portion is delivered by truck to Maryland. The cocaine is then put in storage units, which the customers access and pick up their purchase.

“The customers then meet and pay Tuan Van Le at casinos, such as Live Casino or the Horseshoe Casino. The money is placed in two large suitcases that are delivered or shipped back to Seattle.”

The FBI said Van Le paid his workers $10,000 for every trip they make to Baltimore, and the informant told the FBI that Van Le's brother-in-law works for law enforcement.

Chapackdee was identified by the informant as Van Le’s brother-in-law in May 2016. The informant said Chapackdee was paid $10,000 monthly to keep an eye on Van Le’s grow houses in Seattle and to provide law enforcement information. The information also said Chapackdee drove cars back to Seattle, and was paid $15,000 for each trip.

“A review of travel records and subpoenaed financial records similarly confirmed that Alex Chapackdee made several one-way flights in 2015 from Seattle to (the Baltimore airport),” according to charging documents. “Some of the trips to Baltimore were followed by charges to Alex Chapackdee’s debit card at convenience stores and gas stations along Interstate 90 and Interstate 94.

Khanhphongphane is Van Le’s nephew, according to court documents.

Charging documents described a monthslong investigation, including camera surveillance at Chapackdee’s home in October 2016 and a review of his bank records showing large deposits.

Chapackdee and others also were found with 184 pounds of suspected marijuana last month during a part of the investigation in Maryland, according to charging documents.

>> Get updates on this story anytime with the KIRO 7 News app.

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