Lewis County Watch

A man who was allegedly involved in an illegal marijuana growing operation that was busted by police three years ago finally made his first appearance in court on Monday and pleaded not guilty to all charges while his alleged accomplice is scheduled to appear on Thursday.

Zhou Ri Ni, 56, of Kent, and Jing Ming Gao, 64, of Brooklyn, New York, were charged with manufacture of marijuana, maintaining a building for keeping controlled substances and possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture or deliver in July.

Ni, who appeared in Lewis County Superior Court on Monday, pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, in September of 2017 the Lewis County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team was tipped off about a possible illegal marijuana growing operation at an address in Vader. County records showed that the property was owned by Ni and that he was paying an unusually high electricity bill. 

After serving a search warrant on the property, police found Gao inside the barn-like building that was reportedly split into three growing rooms. Police seized 20 pounds of marijuana buds as well as 646 marijuana plants.

In court on Monday, Judge James Lawler established bail for Ni at $10,000 unsecured.

Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said the case was delayed for so long because they could not track down Gao, who will make his preliminary appearance on Thursday.

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