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Pot grow sprouts new life

Same house in ‘Chinese mafia’ raid in 2017
Natalie St. John

Published on August 14, 2018 5:09PM


GRAYLAND — Who says potheads lack initiative?

The Pacific County Sheriff’s Office discovered an illegal pot grow on last week — in the same house where they busted an illegal grow last November.

Same crime, different year

Deputies on Aug. 7 responded to a report of “suspicious activity” in the 1000 block of Pine Street in North Cove. According to a probable cause statement, a woman saw Hiep Duc Doan, 34, pull up to the property in a black Porsche with California plates, put on gloves, and go inside. The woman called 911 because she knew the property was supposed to be empty.

From the property’s front yard, the responding deputy spotted about 200 small marijuana plants growing in trays in a detached garage. Doan allegedly emerged from a single-wide trailer, and told the deputy he was re-starting his marijuana grow, and planned to apply to the state for the proper licenses.

When the deputy told Doan he could not legally grow without getting the license first, he allegedly replied, “You can’t prove they’re marijuana. They don’t have roots.”

After obtaining a warrant and calling for backup, the deputy arrested Doan. While searching him, deputies allegedly found $1,213 and a bag of what appeared to be cocaine.

Doan also has an ongoing 2017 drug manufacturing case in Lewis County.

‘Unprecedented’ bust

The Grays Harbor Drug Task Force kicked off an “unprecedented” drug-raid on Nov. 28, 2017, when they served about 50 warrants in Grays Harbor, Thurston and King counties. Interviews and property records led to more searches, seizures and arrests, including some in Pacific County. By Dec. 4, the task force had served almost 60 warrants, arrested at least 50 people, seized about 35,000 plants and 50 pounds of processed pot and confiscated 26 vehicles. Police also found guns, more than $400,000 in cash and gold, and information about more possible grow-houses.

Deputies seized almost 2,400 mostly mature plants, about 20 pounds of processed bud, and several thousand dollars worth of equipment at three Pacific County properties. These included the Pine Street house, a home on Hammond Road in Raymond and another on State Route 6 in Menlo.

They arrested two men at the Pine St. house during the 2017 raid: Linh D. Nguyen, now 30, and Hoa D. Doan, now 38, both of San Jose, California. The new suspect — Hiep Doan — held the power bill account for the property at the time of the first raid, but was not arrested.

Vietnamese, not Chinese

Investigators believe a Chinese criminal enterprise purchased properties in rural Southwest Washington communities, then used them to grow pot to sell in East Coast states where the drug is still illegal. Assessor’s office records show that in many cases, the owners of the properties that were raided last year had Chinese names and mailing addresses in New York state.

However, the three Pacific County suspects are Vietnamese. The owner of the Pine Street property, Thuy Thi Le, also of San Jose, California, is Vietnamese too. It is not clear whether the two Doan men are related. According to a 2005 article from Social Sciences Publishing House, 14 surnames account for about 90 percent of all last names in Vietnam. In fact, 40 percent of Vietnamese people share the last name Nguyen.

Legal questions

In 2017 court filings, Montesano attorney Shree Kothari said investigators had not proven that Hoa Doan and Linh Nguyen were associated with the alleged Chinese crime ring. In April court filings, Kothari alleged that PCSO Detective Ryan Tully did not follow the appropriate procedure when he obtained power bills for the property, and did not adequately prove a possible connection between the Vietnamese suspects and the Chinese growing operation.

According to Kothari, Tully began investigating early November 2017, when Grays Harbor Drug Task Force investigators told him some Pacific County properties might be implicated in their investigation. The Grays Harbor investigators had placed a tracking device on a white Toyota pickup driven by a Chinese man, Wei Nung Chen, who appeared to be spending time at a property on SR 6.

Tully searched for all Pacific County properties purchased in the previous 12 months by people with names that appeared to be Chinese. The search turned up properties on Pine St. Hammond Road and SR 6. Tully then requested power bills for each of the properties, because abnormally high electricity consumption is one common sign of a growhouse. However, Kothari alleges that Tully did not submit a written statement establishing that he had good reason to believe a specific person had committed a crime, as required by law.

“The state has not provided any evidence of a written request for the PUD records,” Kothari wrote, noting that furthermore, “… the request for PUD records was not based on a particular person.” Kothari argued that evidence against the men should be dismissed due to this alleged procedural error. A judge has not ruled on the issue yet.

Ongoing cases

Linh and Hoa Doan’s cases are still open, but court documents indicate that prosecutors and Kothari may soon work out some type of plea agreements for them. A scheduled hearing on Aug. 10 was postponed.

As of Aug. 13, Hiep Doan remained in Pacific County Jail on a charge of manufacturing marijuana, a felony crime punishable by up to five years in jail and $10,000 in fines. He is being held on a $10,000 bond.

It is not clear whether the 2017 charges in Lewis County or the new Pacific County charges are somehow connected to the alleged Chinese pot-growing racket. However, just like Hoa Doan and Linh Nguyen, Hiep Doan hired Shree Kothari to represent him in Lewis County. Currently, a public defender is representing him in Pacific County.

Hiep Doan will be arraigned on Aug. 17.


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