The United States Postal Inspection Service along with other federal agents and the King County Sheriff’s Office busted a major illegal marijuana operation that spans coast to coast.
Hundreds of agents and deputies served 27 search warrants simultaneously on the Puget Sound on Wednesday, Oct. 21. KIRO7 cameras were there as agents seized evidence from homes in Skyway. Warrants were also served in Renton, Kent, Lake Tapps, Maple Valley, Federal Way, Covington, SeaTac and Snohomish.
Investigators say the evidence includes processed weed, thousands of marijuana plants and related documents.
“This is a particularly egregious ring. You’re talking about over the course of this investigation there are probably tens of millions of dollars of product that have been shipped to multiple states nationally,” said Inspector in Charge Tony Galetti with the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Court documents indicate the pot was grown inside homes, mostly in King County, then processed and mailed through USPS to nine states: Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia and Missouri.
Recreational marijuana is still illegal in all of those states except Massachusetts and Illinois.
“They can sell a product for $1,000 a pound here, but $3,000 a pound in a state on the East Coast,” Galetti said.
Galetti said some of the suspects used their profits to buy more property — and then used those homes as grow houses.
“Some of these sites, there’s no one living in them. It’s just a grow house. You have people involved in the scheme that just tend to the marijuana,” Galetti said.
KIRO7′s Deedee Sun knocked on several of the doors of the homes in Skyway that agents searched – including an address that comes back to one of the suspects, Raymond Ng.
The person who answered said his parents owned that home and multiple properties in the area, and that he was not involved in the shipping of any marijuana.
Documents say Ng also operates “Skyway General Contractors,” and that he and QiFang Chen are “involved in the purchase of multiple properties that have been used as marijuana grows.”
Agents arrested six people in the Seattle area on Wednesday morning, who all faced a federal judge to hear their charges Wednesday afternoon. Suspects in court included Raymond Ng, QiFang Chen, DaBiao Wu, GuoGui Yu, WoBiao Lei and YiJun Chen.
Investigators said more arrests will likely take place in the coming days. If convicted, defendants face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison.