No charges filed in illegal Rifle grow

Ryan Summerlin/Post Independent
From top left, Duong Dip Chiem, David Luong and Long Luong face preliminary charges of possessing more than 50 pounds of marijuana or more than 25 pounds of concentrate; Sanh Kum Luong, Gin Loon Chan, Xui Fang Chen, Yen Xui Hut, Ma Jianxun, Chi Hung Phung, Shang Jian Xue, Xue Shugong, Guoying Tang, Xin Tao and Malvin Ung, each accused of possessing more than 2.5 pounds of marijuana or 1 pound of concentrate.
Courtesy Photo

The 14 suspects arrested in the illegal Rifle pot farm discovered Sept. 19 have not been charged, nor has anyone else.

After the enormous bust in which about 2,600 pot plants were recovered, all 14 suspects got out on lowered bonds in only a couple of days, inciting concern that they wouldn’t show for future court dates.

However, all of them appeared for what was scheduled as formal charging Wednesday.

But prosecutors did not file formal charges against the suspects.

District Attorney Sherry Caloia, noting that they were arrested on a federal warrant, said prosecutors have a finite amount of time after an arrest to either file formal charges or release a defendant. This does not mean that these suspects cannot be charged in the future, she said.

“We have inadequate evidence to file charges against these arrestees today,” read a press release from the DA’s office. “The investigation is continuing however and charges may be filed against some or all of these 14 migrant workers at a later date.”

Investigators are still trying to determine each suspect’s level of involvement.

“The information we have is that some were probably brought in to work on the property much like migrant workers would be,” read the press release.

These suspects are believed to be Chinese nationals, 11 of which don’t speak any English, said Caloia.

That language barrier has made the investigation and court proceedings difficult, said the DA.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said after the bust that many of the suspects were believed to be in the U.S. illegally, and investigators were considering that they might have been victims of forced labor.

Caloia and Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson, also second in command of Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, declined to comment about whether investigators have any new suspects in this case.

Vallario has previously said investigators were looking into the owners of this property and trying to dig into the organization responsible for the grow operation.

“We’re looking into anyone that’s involved,” said Caloia.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office is continuing to assess the facts of this case and a charging decision has not yet been made.

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