By The Chronicle
Three men accused of operating a large scale marijuana growhouse in Winlock made their preliminary appearances in Lewis County Superior Court on Friday afternoon.
Nga Dong, 65, and Le Hai Son, 39, both of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Chanh Nguyen, 34, of San Jose, California, were all arrested on Thursday on suspicion of manufacture and possession of marijuana, according to information from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. On Friday, each man was charged with manufacture of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture or deliver and possession of a controlled substance.
All three co-defendants were assisted by a Vietnamese interpreter in court and each was ordered held in custody on $50,000 bail.
Their arrests come after about a dozen recent raids in Lewis, Thurston, Pacific and Grays Harbor counties where Chinese nationals were arrested for alleged marijuana grows. Investigators believe some of the operations could be linked to organized crime, though it’s not clear if the raid in Winlock is related.
Deputies served a search warrant on Thursday morning at a home in the 100 block of Nelson Road and discovered multiple grow rooms, extensive growing equipment and an untold quantity of processed marijuana buds. All told there were approximately 1,534 marijuana plants in various stages of maturity at the residence. The three suspects were found in a detached outbuilding on the premises.
The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office noted that their investigation into the growhouse in Winlock was triggered by discoveries made during a previous marijuana grow bust in Vader. During that action, law enforcement found electricity records inside a vehicle that showed inflated power usage over 120,000 kilowatt hours for the home on Nelson Road over the past few billing cycles.
A probable cause statement noted that Nguyen allegedly admitted to deputies that he did not have authorization to grow marijuana medically or commercially. Each defendant is slated to appear in court again on Jan. 4.