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Woman investigated in fire that killed Senegalese family arrested on federal drug, weapons charges

Tanya Bui held pending next court hearing on Feb. 3
Diol Family
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Posted at 11:40 AM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 20:45:15-05

DENVER — A woman being investigated in connection to a house fire in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood that killed a Senegalese family has been arrested on federal drug and weapons charges just two days after three juveniles were arrested in the case.

Tanya Bui, 23, of Littleton, was arrested Friday morning and faces federal charges of possession with intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to federal court documents.

According to an arrest affidavit, during the investigation into the fire last summer, authorities carried out multiple search warrants that helped them identify the suspects involved in the arson case. Investigators determined Bui was paying for the cell phone of one of the suspects.

Also among the search warrants served were for social media records for Bui, the person whose phone she was paying for and two others linked to the arson investigation – identified only by their initials in the documents – which gave federal investigators a trove of insight into Bui’s alleged drug and weapons trafficking.

According to an ATF agent who wrote the affidavit along with help from an FBI agent, the social media records made it “very clear that Tanya Bui was engaged in narcotics distribution and illegal firearms sales.”

Throughout last summer and fall, according to the affidavit, Bui communicated with several people on Snapchat – though most of the communication involved one user called “Chucksygh” – about buying or selling pounds of marijuana, and on some occasions, handguns or suspected cocaine, Xanax and fentanyl.

Agents wrote that the messages and photos exchanged “indicate that Tanya Bui has the ability to sell large amounts of marijuana quickly.” She also spoke with several people about selling various handguns, and allegedly was asked by one of the juvenile arson suspects for help in getting a handgun.

The investigators were able to obtain her Snapchat history as well as Apple iCloud message history, which both contained archived messages and Snapchat “Memories” that showed numerous photos and conversations about the buying and selling of various illegal drugs and firearms.

The agents also noted in the affidavit that Bui had no listed job or income but that she was sending photos of her allegedly holding thousands of dollars in cash, along with trash bags containing dozens of pounds of marijuana.

Officers and agents served a search warrant at a home in Littleton in which she was living on Jan. 27 – the day on which the arrests of the three juveniles in connection with the Truckee Street arson were announced.

According to the affidavit, investigators found 500 suspected fentanyl pills in Bui’s nightstand, as well as a handgun, more than $6,000 in cash in a shoe box and seven pounds of marijuana in her closet.

The combined records gleaned from the social media warrants, and the evidence taken from Bui’s bedroom, was enough to file the federal charges against her, according to the ATF agent who wrote the affidavit.

A court document filed by the government along with the criminal complaint and affidavit says the U.S. Attorney’s Office intends to seek detention for Bui pending her trial.

Bui made her first court appearance around 2:30 p.m. in the U.S. District Court of Colorado. Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak advised her of her rights and said he would appoint her an attorney based on her financial affidavit.

The judge advised Bui of the possible penalties she faces for each count: Up to five years in prison, up to $250,000 fines or both for the marijuana possession charge; and between 5 years and life in prison, up to a $250,000 fine or both on the count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

The U.S. prosecutor said the government was seeking detention in the case, and both she and the defense attorney for Bui agreed to continue Bui’s detention and preliminary hearings until next Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 3 p.m.

The preliminary hearing would be waived if an indictment is filed against Bui. If an indictment is not filed, the government will have to prove at a preliminary hearing there is evidence to bring the charges against her via complaint.

At the detention hearing next week, the judge will also decide whether or not Bui will be held pending her next court hearings or trial, or if she will be allowed out on bond.

The three juveniles charged in the Truckee Street arson – two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old – face a slew of charges. They are not being identified by investigators because they are juveniles.

The suspected arson happened early in the morning on Aug. 5, 2020, when a Denver police officer called the fire department to report a house fire along the 5300 block of N. Truckee St. in Denver’s Green Valley Ranch neighborhood.

Shortly afterward, several residents in the area called to report the fire. Once crews had arrived, they attempted to rescue the people inside, but their efforts were thwarted by the “very significant fire,” Capt. Greg Pixely with the Denver Fire Department said during a press conference that day.

Djibril and Adja Diol, their 2-year-old daughter Khadija, Hassan Diol and her infant daughter, Hawa Baye, were all killed in the fire. Three people on the second story evacuated on their own, Pixley said. The family had immigrated to the area from Senegal.

In a tweet, Macky Sall, the president of the Republic of Senegal, said he offered his condolences to the family of those killed.

The same day as the fire, authorities announced that they suspected arson.

By September, the investigation had focused on surveillance footage of three masked individuals who were seen in the area around the time of the fire.

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Investigators in August 2020 released pictures of three people wearing full face masks and dark hoodies, and pictures of a dark-colored four-door sedan, that they say are connected to the investigation into a suspected arson that killed five people from a Senegalese family earlier that month.

In late November, authorities announced the reward for information on the case had increased to $50,000.

The three male juveniles were arrested on Wednesday and face charges of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder, and eight counts of first-degree arson, according to Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen.

During a press conference Wednesday to announce the charges and arrests, Pazen said the fire did not appear to be a bias-motivated crime, but did not explain further.

Neighbors of the family, as well as Pazen, said the arrests brought a sort of relief.

“You cannot forget this beautiful family that has been taken from us and in just such a horrible way," Pazen said in a one-on-one interview Thursday. “This case is one of many that I will carry with me throughout my life.”