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Thursday, September 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Man suspected of running large-scale illegal marijuana organization in Spokane County

The Washington State Patrol is investigating a man who they believe is the boss of a large operation illegally growing marijuana in Spokane and Stevens counties to ship to New York, according to court documents.

A traffic stop in March 2019 of Li Fa Zhu led to troopers seizing 2.2 pounds of marijuana, $57,100 in cash, and an “extremely” high power bill for a property in Elk, Washington. That bill indicated a potential marijuana grow site, according to court documents.

During the investigation of Zhu, detectives identified Liang Chen, 35, coming and going from Zhu’s residence, records say. A detective learned that Chen was unemployed, yet had made several “high dollar” purchases of cars and property, according to court records.

Chen became the primary suspect as investigators spotted him and his vehicles at several illegal marijuana farms. A neighbor of a suspected marijuana farm described seeing U-Haul trucks come and go from the area, the documents say.

In May, the Washington State Patrol served seven search warrants – six at suspected illegal marijuana farms and one at Chen’s house. At Chen’s house, troopers found three handguns, a box of ammunition with six loaded magazines, a working scale and $87,687 cash, the records say.

At the other six locations, troopers found 8,891 marijuana plants and Chen’s Ford focus. In his car, law enforcement found documentation of a $147,492 wire transfer. They also located a high power bill for a property where police later discovered over 1,000 marijuana plants, according to court records.

In mid-June, Grant County Sheriff’s Office received a tip from a New York number about a potential illegal marijuana farm, the documents say.

Using a translator fluent in Mandarin Chinese, the tipster told law enforcement that Chen was the “boss” and that a grow on Elk Chattaroy Road held at least 2,000 marijuana plants, according to court records.

Washington State Patrol filed several warrants in addition to Chen’s Tuesday, showing they found at least six illegal marijuana grows during a July 21 flight over Spokane, Stevens and Lincoln counties, records say.

Those sites in Valley, Ford, Nine Mile Falls and Loon Lake together held a minimum of 300 plants, based on aerial photos, according to the records.

The investigation is ongoing.

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