TPS Key To U.S. Drug Conviction

By Sara Faruqi, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:07 a.m. December 12, 2014

Toronto Police Drug Squad officers help put away a Canadian man distributing large amounts of ecstasy and marijuana in Philadelphia.

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Thinh Hung Le, 53, of Toronto, was sentenced to 21 years in prison by a Philadelphia judge after a jury found him guilty of exporting and distributing marijuana and ecstasy pills. 

In 2006, Philadelphia Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized 105 pounds of marijuana, 26,000 ecstasy pills containing methamphetamine and MDMA, and then 10,000 more ecstasy pills – all of which had been supplied by Le. The same year, ICE arrested a person for importing ecstasy pills. He turned out to be a distributer for Le. 

That person began acting as an agent for HSI and testified in court – in their testimony they identified their supplier as Le, who was said to live in the Greater Toronto Area. 

HSI came to TPS for help. They gave Toronto Police Drug Squad major projects Heroin Section Le’s name and date of birth. 

“We did background, then surveillance,” said Detective Jason Coulthard, the officer in charge of the investigation. Once Le had been identified by Toronto Police, the Drug Squad’s next step was to prove he was selling drugs. 

“Philly had identified the distribution end, but they needed more on the production arm,” said an undercover officer affiliated with the investigation in Toronto, explaining the pivotal role TPS played in the investigation. 

They sent in two undercover operators, one who was in touch with Le via phone, and a second who met Le in person. The operators were able to secure Le’s trust and soon asked to buy 50,000 ecstasy pills from him. 

“We had to link the bad guy to admitting he could provide the pills,” said one of the undercover officers. 

Le said that he could provide them with the pills in three days, along with a custom brand on the pill – the officers requested a dragon for the brand. Le also said the pills would be manufactured as such that a high would last four to six hours at least. 

Once the deal was sealed, it was only a matter of receiving the drugs, however, a few days before he was going to supply the operator he had a change of heart.

Le called up the agent and asked for the operator’s Chinese Zodiac sign. The agent didn’t know what it was and blurted out “horse” – being of a superstitious nature Le had second thoughts about the deal and called it off. However, it was too late for him. 

HSI continued their investigation, thanks to the work of the Toronto Police Drug Squad and, in 2006, Le was indicted and extradited to stand trial for drug trafficking charges. 

In October this year, Detective Jason Coulthard, along with the two undercover operators and Detective Darren Cox, travelled to Philadelphia to testify against Le – who was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to 21 years in prison. 

According to Assistant United States Attorney Robert Livermore, who prosecuted the case, TPS’s involvement was invaluable, “we (would) lose this case without your testimony,” said Livermore, to the Toronto officers involved in the investigation. 

The case was investigated by HSI in conjunction with Toronto Police Service, the RCMP, York Regional Police, the Philadelphia Police Department and Pennsylvania State Police. 

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