• Owner admits selling illegal drugs from Puyallup Bar

    By: Deborah Horne

    Updated:

    The owner of a Puyallup bar has now pleaded guilty in federal court to running a marketplace for illegal drugs. John Choe was arrested last June. His liquor license was pulled, his business shut down.

    Now most people near his former bar are there as a place to meet.

    It was just a convenient place.

    That is why the members of this clean and sober motorcycle club gathered in the parking lot outside John Choe's former business.

    "No idea," said Johny Churchward, leader of the Unchained Brothers motorcycle club, when asked about the drug sales.

    Indeed Johny Churchward even spells his first name differently. He was familiar with Johnny's Bar and Grill.

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    "Yeah, a few years back," said Churchward, "went in there for lunch."

    He says all he did here was eat.  He says they nothing about the illegal drug dealing.

    "No," he said. "It was close. We thought we'd get something to eat. Never came back."

    This was Johnny's Bar and Grill back in June.

    Federal agents raided it and arrested 55-year-old John Choe.  He was accused of selling meth, heroin and other illegal drugs AND legal alcohol.  Back then we spoke with a regular customer and friend who said he was surprised by Choe's arrest.

    "I have no idea about all of that," said Mark Felderman last June. "Yeah. It's a shame."

    Since then, Choe's bar has fallen into disrepair.

    The standard range for the drug charge Choe pleaded guilty to is five years in federal prison. But a so-called "safety-valve" allows prosecutors to seek a lighter sentence for drug offenders with a minor criminal history.

    "I feel if he's breaking the law," said Churchward, "then he needs to pay the price."

    And likely he will.  But he almost certainly won't be back here where his customers once parked before going inside.

    John Choe bailed out of the federal detention center in SeaTac in late June.

    He remains free until he is sentenced on December 16.
     

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