A Closer Look at One Recent Bust
Guest Post by Skippy Massey:
AS THE DINSMORE case of 39 arrests unfold and the Feds grind down the legal and California-compliant 99-plant Northstone Organics Cooperative, Humboldt officials, meanwhile, are looking at a surprisingly quick and amenable resolve for another bust– only 10 days after the initial arrests.
HERE’s an update of that other massive grow, the Hydesville/Bridgeville bust:
STANISLAW Kopiej, the alleged operator of a $1 million major marijuana grow operation in Hydesville, entered into a plea agreement Friday, October 28, in Humboldt Superior Court under which he will receive probation and forfeit $175,000 in cash. 425 pounds of dried marijuana, 400 growing marijuana plants in outdoor greenhouses, seven firearms, and the cash were found on his property on October 19.
KOPIEJ, represented by Eureka attorney Patrick Griego of the highly-powered Janssen, Needham, Malloy Morrison, Reinholtsen, Crowley, and Griego law firm, pleaded no contest to a single count of maintaining a residence for the purpose of manufacturing, storing or distributing marijuana with a firearm. The stipulated plea will land Kopiej on probation. The charge normally carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. He will have to register as a narcotics offender and complete more than 950 hours of community service if the plea agreement is approved by the sentencing judge.
IF APPROVED, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office will dismiss felony charges of possessing marijuana for sale and cultivation, and child endangerment. Kopiej’s bail, originally set at $400,000, was reduced by Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson last Monday. After posting bail in the lowered amount of $250,000, Kopiej remains free. He’s scheduled to be sentenced November 28.
HIS WIFE, a pair of Thai refugees, a 50-year-old Thai woman in the country on a tourist visa, and four others have yet to be arraigned in the case. They are scheduled to make their first court appearance in November.
THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE claimed Kopiej’s cannabis operation was linked to another grow in Bridgeville by Thomas “Taco” Morgan, a naturalized US citizen of Bulgarian descent. Deputies believing he was involved in Kopiej’s operation searched Morgan’s Bridgeville property finding an additional 250 pounds of dried marijuana, $40,000 in cash and a handgun. Authorities arrested a total of seven people, some of whom were foreign nationals from Bulgaria and Ukraine– and now have immigration holds placed on them by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ARCATA attorney Jeffrey Schwartz maintains the majority of these individuals were merely trimmers for Morgan’s expansive grow. Eureka defense attorney Neal Sanders maintains his client has “little or no connection” to the operation. “She came and visited a friend and all this happened,” Sanders simply said. Morgan himself posted $75,000 bail shortly after his arrest and is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 17.
HOWEVER, prosecutors filed Kopiej’s and Morgan’s cases separately– and curiously enough didn’t file conspiracy charges linking the two. Apparently, prosecutors either can’t prove a connection or they simply weren’t connected. As of last week the Sheriff’s Office said “it’s still investigating whether the two growing operations were connected to international drug trafficking organizations,” said Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dave Morey.
The moral of the story? Grow big, hire a good lawyer, forfeit lots of cash, and hope for overworked investigators and an overloaded court docket crowding the field.
(information for this article was sourced from reports by the Humboldt Beacon and Thadeus Greenson’s Times-Standard articles of October 25 and 29, 2011)