WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The home at 17 Bradford Court appeared to be an ordinary raised ranch in a quiet West Warwick neighborhood when it was sold in November 2017.
But by January of last year, neighbors were calling police about the smell of pot.
Some also thought it was odd they never saw anyone move furniture into the home that was bought with cash by Zhijun Zhao.
Federal agents that month delivered a subpoena to National Grid, asking for electric records for the home.
The clincher: a $2,800 dollar bill for February, and a back-bill for another $846.
The home was raided in April by DEA agents, becoming the latest in a string of eight properties scattered throughout the state allegedly used by a “drug trafficking organization” to grow pot for distribution in other parts of the country.
The federal agents seized 396 marijuana plants, an unspecified amount of the drug in a pair of vacuum-sealed bags and assorted equipment at the West Warwick house.
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Court documents indicate at least 11 warrants have been executed over the past two years for the investigation, which has netted more than a thousand plants, about 400 pounds of processed pot and more than $250,000 in cash and growing equipment.
Zhao was in the U.S illegally, according to investigators, and has since been turned over to ICE.
Li Quong Zeng, who’s allegedly involved in grows in Cranston and Coventry, is now a fugitive from justice, investigators said.
As Target 12 reported earlier this year, a Zeng-owned Cranston home on Scituate Avenue that was built in 1770 and is on the National Register as the Nathan Westcott House was involved in the ring.
That property was one of five raided on June 29, 2017. The first home in the string was in Coventry — searched by agents in October 2016.
A spokesperson for the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office said he “can’t comment on this ongoing matter.”