Suspect pleads not guilty to running alleged Oregon-to-Wisconsin drug operation
Pheng Lee, charged in November 2018 with felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and maintaining a drug trafficking place after authorities seized more than 280 pounds of pot from two Baldwin-area properties, pleaded not guilty to both charges and posted $35,000 cash bond last week in St. Croix County Circuit Court, according to court records.
Lee, 51, is accused in a criminal complaint of heading an operation that cultivated marijuana from two state-authorized farms in Oregon and overseeing its transportation to property he owns near Baldwin.
The drug network was discovered when almost 6 ounces of pot, baggies of suspected methamphetamine and $7,152 in cash were found in a truck registered to Lee during a February 2018 North Dakota Highway Patrol traffic stop in West Fargo, according to a criminal complaint.
One of the truck's two occupants cooperated with officers, the complaint states, and described the transportation arrangement from Oregon to western Wisconsin, which he told authorities Lee controlled from start to finish.
Lee paid a $500 fee for this man to undergo a doctor's assessment in order to receive a medical marijuana card in Oregon, the complaint states, and in return, he listed Lee as a his medical marijuana grower.
Authorities said in the charging document that the agreement "was intended to provide cover for the appearance of legal authorization for Pheng Lee to cultivate marijuana under the laws of the state of Oregon."
A Feb. 21, 2018, a search warrant executed at two town of Eau Galle properties turned up a combined 288 pounds of marijuana — 250 pounds at one and 38 at the other.
Lee's nephew was later charged and convicted in connection with the drugs and was sentenced in September 2018 to two years and six months in prison for felony marijuana possession.
According to the complaint, Lee's nephew told authorities Lee directed his father to buy the home where the pot was found and the pot belonged to his uncle.
Lee's address also was updated to Azalea, Oregon, according to court documents. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 6.