U.S. District Court Judge Robert Blackburn set an August trial date Monday for four suspects facing felony charges in connection with illegal marijuana cultivation in Montezuma County.
Jimmy Dang, Lisa Yang, Qi Lin Wu and Sang Teng are scheduled for an Aug. 19 trial, Blackburn said. They are charged with manufacturing, possessing and intending to distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
All four defendants have pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October. Dang and Wu are being held in custody on the charges.
The four defendants were arrested in August after several agencies raided four properties in Montezuma County and one in Cortez.
An estimated $500,000 in cash and gold bars, 4,300 plants and 500 pounds of processed marijuana were seized, according the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The distribution charge stemmed from surveillance operations in Denver in which the defendants were suspected of transferring marijuana and visiting a drug stash house on Bryant Street, according to court records.
The raids are connected to a Chinese or Chinese-speaking drug ring that has been under investigation since a large raid in 2016 in Rifle, Steve Knight said in a previous interview with The (Cortez) Journal. Knight is the resident agent in charge of the DEA office in Grand Junction.
Mandarin and Cantonese translators were provided during Monday’s court hearing to ensure the defendants understood the proceedings.
Three defendants own Chinese restaurants in Cortez, according to court documents.
Wu and Dang own the Ocean Pearl Chinese Restaurant, 300 E. Main St., and Yang owns the Hong Kong Restaurant, 332 W. Main St., according to case records and the Montezuma County Assessor’s Office.
Charges against five other people arrested during the August raids were dismissed in November in 22nd Judicial District Court.