An alleged drug house in Spokane Valley – where almost two dozen people were detained Tuesday – is owned by a once-prominent Spokane Realtor, who a little less than 10 years ago was the subject of a large-scale drug bust.
Joseph G. Ward, 70, along with several members of his family, is listed as the co-owner of Nickster Commercial, LLC, which according to Department of Revenue records was formed in 2015. Among its owned properties is a home at 803 S. Pines Road in Spokane Valley, where Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies found piles of cash and pounds of drugs in a home that neighbors described as a constant nuisance.
After the hourslong SWAT raid, deputies detained 20 people and arrested two – 54-year-old and 13-time convicted felon Victor A. Hackett, and 50-year-old James A. Jackson. The rest were released pending further investigation.
Hackett, the main focus of the investigation, according to court records, faces three charges of drug possession, including intent to deliver. Records say Spokane County Sheriff’s Detective Jeff Thurman has been investigating Hackett and the home for about a year, including talking to two witnesses who described – and were later witnessed by deputies – buying meth and heroin at the home.
One man told Thurman the house featured multiple hidden rooms where drugs and people were concealed, according to records. He said during one transaction he saw a “gallon-sized bag full of methamphetamine” and a bag of heroin next to a scale in Hackett’s bedroom, adding that a large amount of heroin would often go to a buyer in Montana.
Another witness told a deputy during a traffic stop that he had just come from the home, where he saw a false wall behind drywall that can “pull away and a room was behind it.” The man described a pound of heroin in a big clear bag on a table that was “leaving soon and going to Montana and North Dakota.”
Ward, who was ordered to pay $68,000 in restitution following the 2009 bust, is listed as the previous owner of the home, according to property records. Nickster purchased it in October 2015 for $10 as part of a quit claim deed – a legal instrument often used by family members to transfer property as gifts. The property was recently valued at $125,000.
Ward did not return multiple calls and emails Wednesday seeking comment for this story, nor did the co-owners of Nickster Commercial, Nicholas and Caleb Ward.
The 70-year-old is also listed as a co-owner of three Spokane-area real estate companies. They’re all based out of his Nine Mile Falls home on Tormey Road along the shores of Long Lake – the same residence where a SWAT team and Washington State Patrol auto theft unit in 2009 seized methamphetamine and property from several burglaries, and arrested three other suspects, including two with lengthy criminal records.
The then-63-year-old pleaded guilty in 2011 to 10 counts of possession of stolen property, but dodged charges of drug possession. Because he was a first-time offender, he was ordered six days total jail time. As part of his release conditions, he was prohibited from owning controlled substances and barred from having contact with drug offenders and convicted felons.
In a 2009 Spokesman-Review story, Realtors reacted in shock to the accusations against Ward, who they described as a gifted and dogged Realtor who could outperform anyone.
“He’s not your ordinary Realtor,” developer Dave Black said at the time. “He’s one of the best.”
However, Scott Johnson, one of the men who was staying at Ward’s home as a self-described bodyguard, painted Ward as a sex-fueled millionaire caught up in an underground world of drugs and thievery, according to a 100-plus page probable cause affidavit detailing the 2009 charges against Johnson.
“With his money, he thought he was God,” Johnson reportedly told authorities before his and Ward’s arrests in January 2009.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.