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Seattle police officer charged with marijuana conspiracy

Seattle Police Officer Alex Chapackdee. (KIRO 7)

A Seattle police officer was arrested and charged for conspiracy to distribute marijuana after an investigation revealed his alleged involvement in a drug organization moving marijuana from Seattle to the East Coast.

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Seattle police officer Alex Chapackdee was arrested Saturday in a drug sting that was the culmination of a two-year investigation. KIRO 7 reports that the 44-year-old officer was a member of the south precinct’s highly regarded Community Police Team. He graduated from Rainier High School in 1991 and has served with the Seattle Police Department since 2000.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole called the officer’s conduct “disgraceful and disappointing.”

“While he will have his due process in the courts, I hope these charges demonstrate to our community that SPD will not tolerate corrupt behavior in our ranks,” she said.

The investigation into Chapackdee and his associates began in 2015 when authorities received a tip in Washington D.C.; it allegedly revealed a drug-trafficking operation from Washington state to the East Coast going as far back as 2013. The allegations against Chapackdee state that he often watched over his brother-in-law’s marijuana grow operation in the Seattle area, and was also paid to provide information about law enforcement.

“The trafficking of hundreds of pounds of marijuana from Washington to the streets of Baltimore will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Drug trafficking organizations that ignore federal and state laws have always been and will continue to be targeted and held to account. The fact that a police officer was involved in this is obviously of particular concern.”

Seattle police officer arrested

Chapackdee has been charged in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Charging documents state:

(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.

Chapackdee was arrested with three other people related to the investigation — Tuan Van Le, his brother-in-law; Samath Khanhphongphane; and Phi Nguyen. Khanhphongphane is Le’s nephew.

Charging documents allege that some of the men arrested would regularly drive drugs from Seattle to the East Coast, only stopping for gas. Le’s East Coast activities also allegedly involve selling cocaine. The investigation also reportedly found that the men would often fly to the East Coast, make drug deals, and take home cash.

According to the Department of Justice, Chapackdee’s participation in the operation went beyond looking over marijuana grows in 2016. He allegedly made multiple trips between September and November of 2016 in his RV — to Baltimore then back to Seattle. It is believed that drugs were distributed during these trips and cash was brought back to Seattle. The investigation alleges that Chapackdee would then make cash deposits into his bank account at amounts just under $10,000, avoiding the limit that would be reported to federal authorities.

A South Seattle community member told KIRO 7 that she was in shock over the arrest of the Seattle police officer.

“Alex is a kind guy,” said Mariana Quarnstrom, a longtime South Seattle activist. “I’ve never seen him get gruff. So you know it’s really foreign to me.”

The Seattle Police Department did not initially elaborate on the arrest, other than say the officer was placed on administrative leave without pay. The FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security are also involved in the investigation.

Information from KIRO 7 contributed to this report.

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