Dan Khau Tang, the 46-year-old owner of Heaven Dragon restaurant in Thornton, surrendered to U.S. Marshals yesterday and then appeared in a federal court after being linked by investigators to a vast money-laundering and marijuana-growing operation in the metro area that has led to the seizure of 24,000 plants and $3 million. Tang was not directly involved in distributing the drug, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office tells Boulder’s Daily Camera, but he is charged with one count of money laundering, which carries up to 20 years in prison and large fines, and faces losing $1.8 million that federal agents have frozen in his bank accounts. Authorities began their focus on Tang in September of 2007, when the Drug Enforcement Agency and the North Metro Task Force targeted a large-scale, indoor growing and distribution ring allegedly run by members of Tang’s immediate family and employees at his restaurant. CBS4 has been on the story for several months, reporting in March 2008 that Tang denied involvement in the criminal activity.

Prosecutors believe Tang provided money to conspirators to purchase homes for growing pot, according to The Denver Post. Of course, marijuana isn’t illegal in Colorado if you’ve got a prescription for it. But it is illegal to steal two 20-gallon containers of it and then speed away from police when they try to pull you over. Earlier this week, police apprehended four men on U.S. 36, who were suspected of stealing the medical weed from New Options Wellness Clinic in Boulder, writes the Daily Camera. Meanwhile, the names of those who provide medical marijuana are protected by law, the Camera points out.