PORT ANGELES — A former restaurant owner charged with running a multimillion-dollar pot growing operation has pleaded not guilty to five counts of unlawfully manufacturing marijuana and five counts of unlawfully using buildings on five parcels he owns for drug purposes.
Dong Hao Mai, 47, the former owner of Soho Asian Bistro in Port Angeles, had an Aug. 2 trial date set Friday by Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brent Basden.
Mai’s lawyer, Stan Myers of Port Angeles, has said Mai did not know occupants of his properties were growing and processing marijuana valued between $5 million and $10 million.
Each of the 10 charges is a Class C felony that carries a maximum five-year prison term and a fine of up to $10,000.
A 3½-year investigation by the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team resulted in Dec. 7-8 raids on Mai’s properties and the seizure of more than 3,000 plants and 600 pounds of processed marijuana.
The parcels are on South Old Mill Road, South Airport Road, West 10th Street, North Baker Street and Nicholas Road, where Mai had wanted to run a legal grow-and-process operation, applying for a city land-use permit before withdrawing it shortly before his arrest.
“With the exception of the North Baker Street house, none of the residences appeared to be set up for full-time residents,” according to the probable cause statement.
No grow operation was discovered at Mai’s Diamond Vista Drive residence, where documents were seized linking him to the grow operation and where he must reside as a condition of release on his own recognizance, not traveling outside the state of Washington while he awaits trial.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Snipe said he expected the trial to be lengthy, at least four days.
“We’re looking at 100 pages of discovery,” he said at Friday’s arraignment.
“I was thinking more about seven or eight [days],” Myers responded.
Snipe said he would not request bail for Mai, allowing him to continue to avoid incarceration for the time being.
“The state is not concerned about community safety here,” Snipe said.
“I believe Mr. Mai will make his future court dates.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].