Pot bust leads to felony charges against four men

A report of strange odors coming from a commercial building led to the arrest of four men, along with the seizure of 307 plants and 102 pounds of processed marijuana, on Feb. 20.

The men — two from Bremerton — were charged with manufacturing marijuana in Kitsap County District Court on Feb. 21. They are identified as Ruben John Fred Gifford, 31, and John Patrick Casely, 29, of Bremerton; Ryan Scott Taylor, 30, of Maple Valley, and Pouesi Kingston Maae, 18, of California.

According to charging papers, the men were arrested Feb. 20 after Port Orchard police investigated “strange odors” coming from the building located in the 1300 block of Lumsden Road SE inside the Port Orchard Industrial Park. They were booked into the Kitsap County Jail and bail was set at $50,000 each.

“Our officers responded to a suspicious situation that was called in by citizens,” said Police Chief Geoffrey Marti. “Without the input from the community this situation may have continued for some time. I would also like to recognize the assistance of Bremerton Police Department Special Operation Group (SOG) in the handling of such a large marijuana grow operation.”

During a search of the building, Bremerton SOG detectives — who were called in to assist with the investigation — found a file that contained three expired medicinal marijuana permits and two valid permits.

Under state law pertaining to medicinal marijuana, up to 10 individuals can form a co-op and grow a maximum of 45 plants.

According to court documents, two Port Orchard officers responded to a complaint of strange odors coming from the building. Gifford answered the officers’ knock on the door and officers reported that Gifford “reeked of a very pungent marijuana smell and was covered in small flakes and pieces of marijuana on his clothing.” They asked Gifford if he was growing marijuana and if he had proper paperwork. He told officers he did not have the proper paperwork and said he contacted his lawyer.

Gifford and Casely invoked their rights to legal counsel, but Taylor and Maae answered the officers’ questions. Taylor said he was employed by a man known as “Steven” to work at the marijuana growing operations in the building and believed it was for medical marijuana purposes. He told officers he has a medical marijuana license, but his license was not to grow marijuana in the building, stated court papers.

Court records reported that Maae told investigators he was from California and has lived in Washington for a few months. He said Gifford offered him a job as a “trimmer” at the operation and that he didn’t have a medical marijuana license. Both Taylor and Maae said they received marijuana as payment for their work at the operation.

Licenses to grow recreational marijuana are expected to be issued this spring. Under state law, individuals authorized to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes are allowed a limited number of plants.

If convicted, each defendant could face five years in prison and/or a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, plus restitution and assessments. If previously convicted, a defendant could face 10 years in prison and/or a fine between $2,000 and $20,000, plus restitution and assessments.


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