By Patti Weaver
(Stillwater, Okla.) — A Stillwater man and his nephew, who remain free on $500,000 total bail, have been ordered to appear in court in January on multiple drug charges including illegally trafficking large quantities of marijuana.
ZiQian Zhang, 53, who owns a licensed marijuana grow facility at 10415 E. 6th Avenue, and his nephew, Danny Zhang, 30, who reportedly lives at the facility, were told by a Payne County judge on Nov. 7 that they must have their cases set for a preliminary hearing or waive their rights to it when they return to court on Jan. 9, 2023.
If convicted of marijuana trafficking, illegally cultivating marijuana, possessing marijuana without a tax stamp and using a cell phone for drug trafficking, the pair could each be given a 40-year prison term and $165,000 in fines. If convicted of an additional count of maintaining a house where drugs are kept and sold, ZiQian Zhang could be given a 10-year prison term and a $50,000 fine.
The pair were arrested following an investigation by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, according to an affidavit by an agent who speaks fluent Mandarin, court records show.
Two OBN agents were on Interstate 35 just north of the Oklahoma-Texas border at 6:05 pm on March 7 when they noticed an odor of raw marijuana coming out of an SUV during a traffic stop, the affidavit alleged.
The driver said he was traveling home to Houston from Stillwater and “eventually admitted there was a large quantity of processed marijuana flowers in the vehicle,” the affidavit alleged. A female passenger “admitted they were coming from a marijuana grow facility located at 10415 E. 6th Ave., Stillwater,” and said she was working with the sole owner of the marijuana grow facility, later identified through OBN registration as ZiQian Zhang, the affidavit alleged.
When the SUV was searched, OBN agents found about “51 pounds of marijuana in two plastic tubs in the rear cargo area, a large trash bag behind the driver’s seat and a large plastic baggy in the center console,” the affidavit alleged. “There were also notebooks and other paper documents found in the vehicle that can source the marijuana” back to the licensed grow facility in Stillwater owned by ZiQian Zhang, the affidavit alleged.
On April 7, OBN agents, Stillwater police detectives and other law enforcement found “illegal marijuana trafficking activities being conducted at the marijuana grow,” the affidavit alleged. An FBI agent discovered text messages on a cell phone “between Danny Zhang and another individual where Danny Zhang admitted he moves marijuana as his job,” the affidavit alleged.
Danny Zhang admitted to an FBI agent “that he moves marijuana to Oklahoma City in order to facilitate illegal marijuana trafficking out of state,” the affidavit alleged. OBN agents found an ice chest containing one pound of marijuana in a sealed bag, the affidavit alleged. “Carrying the sample of marijuana, usually the sample of marijuana in one sealed bag weighs exactly one pound, is allegedly easier and a safer method to show the quality and strain of the marijuana to potential buyers,” the affidavit alleged.
“Danny Zhang is one of the regular residents at the marijuana grow facility that belongs to ZiQian Zang,” where about 1,000 pounds of illegal processed marijuana and approximately 5400 marijuana plants,” were found, the affidavit alleged.
That same day, “OBN agents received a tip indicating ZiQian Zhang was at another marijuana grow facility in Ripley,” where Stillwater police detectives were told that ZiQian was home, the affidavit alleged. But when Stillwater police went to his home on Pecan Lake Court in Stillwater, the mother of his children said he was not there, the affidavit alleged. When ZiQian Zhang was contacted, he said that his primary residence is now in the 7300 block of E. 6th Avenue, the affidavit alleged.
When ZiQian Zang arrived at his own marijuana grow facility, he denied knowledge of any criminal activity, the affidavit said. “However, I, after getting a verbal consent from ZiQian Zhang, looked through his cell phone, I discovered multiple text messages between ZiQian Zhang and his nephew, Danny Zhang regarding illegal marijuana trafficking,” on WECHAT, a commonly used online messenger in the Chinese community, the OBN agent alleged in his affidavit.
That night when a search warrant was granted for ZiQian Zhang’s primary residence in the 7300 block of E. 6th Ave., “OBN agents and Stillwater Police Department detectives discovered multiple documents indicating ZiQian Zhang’s ownership of different marijuana grow facilities in Payne County, Oklahoma,” the affidavit alleged.
“Agents and detectives discovered multiple black plastic trash bags containing marijuana in sealed bags in plain view,” in a structure behind the house, the affidavit alleged.
“Later, I located an OMMA license for a business enterprise, BIG QIAN LLC, in the living room,” with his address in the 7300 block of E. 6th Ave. listed for the business, but “there is no OBN registration for the address,” the affidavit alleged.