When he came to the attention of federal drug agents three years ago, Benjamin Ton, then 30, was an unemployed copy-machine repairman inexplicably living the American dream. A Vietnamese emigre, he and his wife had just moved from a modest rowhouse to an upscale home. Parked in the driveway of the new home were a Corvette, a BMW and a Lexus. “It was obvious there was a lot of money coming from somewhere,” said Christopher A. Jakim, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
Eight months later, Ton was arrested on charges of heading a $50 million drug operation that in just two years had brought nearly 10 tons of high-quality marijuana and more than 300,000 ecstasy pills to the Philadelphia area from Canada, a quietly growing source for those illegal drugs in the United States. The Philadelphia Inquirer tells the story of the rise and fall of Ton, who has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. It offers a glimpse into that highly lucrative drug underworld and a look at a new breed of American gangster.