3 charged in pot grow at Pierce County storage unit

Desperate to pay his business mortgage, a Pierce County storage unit owner allegedly partnered with two men to grow marijuana in the storage units.

When sheriff’s deputies served search warrants on the property in the 6800 block of 112th Street South, they found 255 marijuana plants spread across three units.

Prosecutors charged the storage unit owner, John Engelking, 56, with unlawful use of a building for drug purposes, unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance and conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance.

Co-defendants James Sloop, 34, and Hee Choi, 33, face similar charges. Sloop reportedly owns a medical marijuana dispensary in West Seattle.

Prosecutors said they’re considering filing money laundering charges.

The three men are scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 27.

Engelking agreed in 2013 to rent units to Sloop and Choi to grow pot because he was behind on his mortgage, according to charging papers. He charged Sloop $1,500 and Choi $2,500 monthly, the records show.

“Engelking added he participated in all the marijuana grows by acting as a janitor and by taking marijuana shake to the Tacoma landfill,” charging papers state.

Sloop allegedly told investigators he was legally growing his plants but admitted he “consulted” on or “oversaw” the other grow operations.