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Posted on Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Police report: Leaky ceiling revealed marijuana grow operation at Meijer last spring

By John Counts


Pittsfield Township police discovered these marijuana plants at a nail salon in the upper level of Meijer on Carpenter Road after water from hydroponic equipment leaked onto the main level.

Courtesy of Pittsfield Township police

A shopper at Meijer might stop in to pick up groceries, buy stamps or even get a haircut. A joint generally isn’t on the shopping list.

The discovery by police last April of 77 marijuana plants at a nail salon located within the busy Pittsfield Township Meijer on Carpenter Road shocked those who frequent the store.

Authorities seized the plants and thousands of dollars worth of growing equipment. Two men were questioned — the US Nails lease-holder, 26-year-old Tai Anh Nguyen, of Ypsilanti, and his cousin, 24-year-old Phu Danny-Quoc Nguyen, of Ypsilanti Township, who had a medical marijuana card and was a certified caregiver

Phu Nguyen was eventually sentenced to one year of probation in the case after pleading guilty to possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. Prosecutors dismissed a felony charge of delivery and/or manufacture of a controlled substance.


Police were led to this closet in the back of U.S. Nails.

Courtesy of Pittsfield Township police

Steve Hiller, of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, called the grow operation “amateurish.” Ann Arbor-area attorney James Fifelski, who specializes in medical marijuana cases and represented Phu Nguyen, said the case exemplifies problems with state marijuana laws.

And it all started with a water leak.

‘Water flowing onto the floor’

At first, the manager of the Meijer store at 3825 Carpenter Road thought the water dripping from the ceiling down into the store’s cafeteria was condensation from air conditioners that had been turned on due to unseasonably warm weather in April, according to police reports obtained by through the Freedom of Information Act.

Then on April 17, 2012, the manager received a call from the grocery manager who said there was “water flowing onto the ground” of the Meijer main level, the report said.

The general manager now thought there was a plumbing problem, but in order to call a plumber, he needed to know what he was dealing with. So he followed the water to its source, the report said.

That was on the upper level, where U.S. Nails was located. Using a master key, the manager let himself in and noticed a puddle near a partially opened closet. There was also a light on. Inside he saw “numerous plants he believed were marijuana,” the report said. “It appeared as though the water that was being used to grow the plants in the closet was overflowing and causing the water to fall through the floor into the ceiling.”

The manager called police around 12:41 a.m.

According to the report, the Pittsfield Township police officer who arrived on the scene noticed that there was a chair outside the closet door “that had what appeared to be a hydroponic water filter sitting on top of it and a tube running from the water filer into the closet, preventing the door from closing.”

In addition to a big light on the ceiling of the closet, there was ventilation tubing running throughout the ceiling. The water was overflowing onto the floor from a large plastic bin housing 70 of the smaller plants, the report said.

Police found seven more mature plants about a foot and a half tall and larger, according to the report.

At this point, police obtained a search warrant, which was authorized at 6:10 a.m. Officers from Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team (LAWNET) conducted the search along with Pittsfield police.

“While performing a search of the business, a door was located in the main area of the business (that) appeared to be providing access to a room that had been recently constructed within the business,” the report said.


Phu Nguyen told police this recently constructed room in the back of the nail and tanning salon was intended to use to expand the operation.

Courtesy of Pittsfield Township police

The room seemed to be intended for “a larger scale marijuana growing operation.”

Police eventually seized roughly $6,725 worth of marijuana growing equipment, including 11 grow lights, 11 transformers, four inline fans, one reverse osmosis filter and one carbon filter.

Police also seized the 77 marijuana plants.

The suspects

Tai and Phu Nguyen arrived at the store that morning and were questioned by police, the report said. At first Phu Nguyen said they had come to Meijer to get something to eat.

Police found $688 on Tai Nguyen, who would not answer many questions, though he did eventually admit he worked at U.S. Nails, the report indicated. The report said he told police his mother had given him the money because he was going to court in Canton Township for a marijuana infraction. Later, when asked the same question, he told police his mother gave him the money for car repairs. Police confiscated the money.

“Tai was in possession of a large amount of U.S. currency and it was in denominations which are consistent with narcotics sales,” the Pittsfield officer wrote in the report.

The men would again change their stories when interviewed by police in the presence of their attorney a few weeks later. The morning of the marijuana discovery, however, both men were released pending further investigation.

Police also sent a letter to Meijer corporate offices about the incident.

The case's outcome

Fifelski said he specializes in criminal law — and even more specifically — medical marijuana cases. His website describes him as “Michigan Medical Marijuana Lawyer James Fifelski.”

Officers from LAWNET met with Tai and Phu Nguyen at Fifelski’s office on May 4, according to the report. The interview revealed that Tai Nguyen didn’t have a medical marijuana card. Phu Nguyen did have a card — for “chronic pain,” the report said — as well as a caregiver card. Caregivers are allowed to grow 12 plants per patient, Fifelski said. Phu Nguyen told police he had one patient — a cousin. It’s not clear from the report if Tai Nguyen was that cousin.

Phu Nguyen said he had only set of keys to the closet where the marijuana was being grown, something he told police he’d only been doing for about a month, the report said. He also said the larger room was indeed a new space to expand the grow operation.

Tai Nguyen said he knew his cousin was growing marijuana, but that he “did not help in moving or caring for the marijuana plants,” the report said.

In the end, Phu Nguyen would be the only one charged.

“He complied in many ways, but recognized he didn’t do everything perfect to the letter of the law,” Fifelski said.

Phu Nguyen’s was initially charged with delivery/manufacturing of a controlled substance, a felony. In October, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor possession charge.

Hiller said prosecutors look at all cases individually.

“We have to look at the circumstances,” he added. “(This) was not a huge grow operation.”

Hiller said prosecutors agreed to the misdemeanor because the operation was “amateurish” compared with others and that the chances of Phu Nguyen going to prison on a felony charge were “pretty slim” considering his record was clean.

Tai Nguyen’s $688 was released back to him on Aug. 13.

Then in October, Judge Richard Conlin sentenced Phu Nguyen to one year of probation with several conditions, according to court records. While he is on probation, Phu Nguyen cannot use marijuana and will undergo random drug testing. He was stripped of his caregiver status and cannot possess any grow equipment, which had to be sold to a court-approved third party.

The status of his medical marijuana card was left up to the probation office and the treating physician, according to court records.

Gray areas in a green law

Fifelski said the case’s outcomes were “good” and “fair.”

“I think this case is an example of the fact that there are some gray areas with the medical marijuana program,” he said.


The space that U.S. Nails once occupied has been rehabbed and is up for lease, according to a Meijer spokesman.

Courtesy of Pittsfield Township police

Cloning is one of those fuzzy areas, Fifelski said. He explained that while there were officially 77 marijuana plants seized, 70 of those were tiny clones from the bigger plants that contain no THC. Fifelski said the law is not clear on how to count clones.

“That’s why there was some debate and compromise," he added.

Fifelski hopes higher courts and the state legislature make aspects of the law more clear in the future. For instance, whether or not Phu Nyguen was allowed to legally be growing marijuana in the Meijer as a caregiver is not addressed in the law, Fifelski said, though he did say a landlord can set his own policies regarding controlled substances on the premises.

Apparently Meijer wasn’t happy with the goings-on at U.S. Nails. Frank Guglielmi, a spokesman for the chain, said the space once occupied by the nail and tanning salon is now empty.

“We terminated their contract when all this happened,” he said.

The entire space has been rehabbed and is now for lease, Guglielmi said.


lousie thomas

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:51 a.m.

It's hard to believe there are still places where marijuana growers and entrepreneurs are treated as major, dangerous criminals.

harry b

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 5:46 p.m.

Why don't they keep medical marijuana at the pharmacy. Why should this pain medication be treated any different from vicoden or oxycodin?

Atticus F.

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

I dont have a problem with medical marijuana. I dont have a problem with recreational use of marijuana. What I do have a problem with is large scale commercial growers that put fungicides, pesticides, ect. into marijuana and then flood the medical MJ market with cheap, chemical laced marijuana that could present a health risk to sick people. Many people use medical marijuana to aleviate the symptoms of cancer treatment. It is of the utmost importance that these people recieve medical cannabis that is free of carcinogens.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

Wait, so if I have $633 on my person the police can can seize it, saying it's "a large amount of U.S. currency"? Hello, that won't even pay the rent on most apartments in the county. And, "denominations consistent with narcotics sales"? We only have ones, fives, tens, twenties, fifties, and hundreds. All of those are readily available at the bank, how can the police categorize them as consistent with narcotics sales?

Robert Granville

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

You tell me. Civil forfeiture law is basically guilty until proven innocent. I've long said that its the most disgusting, anti-American, unconstitutional law on the books in the country. It essentially allows the government to take property from private citizens at their will. Insane.... but because it largely deals with "drug offenders" the average, (prescription drug, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco users) person doesn't take notice.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.

I can't believe that they're still rehashing this story. Seems a little bit well after the fact. But I suppose it takes time to release details after a trial and investigation.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 11:49 p.m.

The question I have is did Sandy know about it and when did Sandy know about it?

dading dont delete me bro

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

thank you?


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

Like I've always said smoking dope turns you into one.


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 3 p.m.

continuing the comments made by clownfish AND homeland conspiracy, was Carl Sagan a dope also? he smoked it too!

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:47 p.m.

Not to mention all the great musicians


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:39 p.m.

Just curious, do you consider Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Louis Armstrong, George Carlin or Stephen King to be dopes?


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 5:46 p.m.

Gee, I feel so much safer now that this criminal mastermind and his evil plot have been discovered. I mean seriously, these plants could have spelled the end of civilization as we know it!!!


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

Meijer's.....Higher Standards.


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.


meko san

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

"A waste of police and court resources" Sure. Just announce that everyone can grow marijuana anywhere they feel like it. No consequences. Hey, why not in those big window's at the A2 "Y" or the library? No one has the right to enforce anything in this Pink Cloud of a world that we live in.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

let of with my jail time then make weed legal ...whats more dead is stuff over the counter at store...besides all junk food people buy is shocking!!!


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.


Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.



Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

So now the space sits empty and unused, sounds like many of our public park lands


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

You're right. Paul. They should promote using empty and unused public park lands for growing medical marijuana.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Another example of government thwarting job creators... ;-)

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:43 p.m.

The government weren't getting their cut, that's why it had to stop


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Nice homemade Auto-cloner there.....but for dirt? Why? Not surprised they got caught because someone didn't want to wait for the RO filter to pump out enough water and just left it running...


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Legalize marijuana, now.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

"Keep Marijuana Illegal!!!" This message sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of Mexican Drug Cartels


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

"We won't take your marijuana away (yet) - we're all Democrats and you can trust us. lol. The right of the liberals to keep and bear and smoke marijuana shall not be infringed - that's the Second Amendment, right? ;-) I think this is a good time to talk about Global Irony Warming Up.

Unusual Suspect

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

Good point, Tru. Drugs are what the left uses as their self-defense against having to live their life in reality.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

Or is the Great Irony that so-called "conservatives" want more enforcement of failed drug laws rather than reasonable statutes on firearms that are used to kill and maim. Real conservatives (an endangered species) know the drug laws as currently written and enforced are a waste of time and money. Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette promoted the growth and use of hemp.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

A waste of police and court resources, but maybe chasing small crap like this means that real crime is way down and some of our police have time on their hands. I do see why the landlord wasn't pleased with leaks in the building so the eviction was deserved.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

The one year probation for possession indicates law enforcement agrees with you. Boycott Meijer - they are the ones that called the police.

Robert Granville

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2 p.m.

My only question is why was his medical information disclosed? Did he agree to that? Police often release the medical information of medical marijuana patients without realizing that they're breaking federal law.


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

I'm not sure why my links to the HIPAA act have been deleted. Not even sure why my references to Nguyen's Constitutational (Miranda) rights have been deleted. Anyway, the police didn't release any patient information covered by any medical privacy act. Nguyen released his information when he ignored his Miranda rights (with his lawyer present). I'd list those rights but has been deleting them.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 9:37 p.m.

What's the matter with my second comment?

Robert Granville

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

but that is beside the point. the medical law has specific clauses regarding to disclosure of patient information which creates a misdemeanor offense for anyone who discloses the information including police.

Robert Granville

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 4:16 p.m.

a2citizen yes they absolutely are.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

Police aren't covered by HIPAA privacy rules.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

We both know medical has precious little to do with pot. It provides a veneer of respectability and is a wonderful marketing ploy. You are taking that to a whole new level.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

You covered this story last April, apparently printed nothing about the court decisions in August or October ... why are you publishing this article now? And of course, as others have already noted -- what a tremendous waste of police and court resources!


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

"Officers from Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team (LAWNET) conducted the search along with Pittsfield police." What a waste of police time and resources - focus on real crimes that have victims!

Basic Bob

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

Lawnet is a joke. I can't believe Pittsfield still sends them money and undercover officers. Heroin sales continue unabated at the high school and there are no reports of investigations or arrests. Maybe Lawnet could take a shot at solving that one?


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

This is what the hoopla was about? 8 pots of pot? Is this really the best use of the courts and cops time?

Michigan Man

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 2:21 a.m.

Other than developing a brain as sharp as a bowling ball - I cannot see much benefit in smoking dope.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

If I am assaulted I may be physically harmed. No one was physically harmed in any way by the growing of some plants. I would rather have the cops patrolling in higher crime areas than spending hours upstairs at Meijers tagging some potted plants. I would rather have the courts using their time on more serious matters. The law should be changed, prohibition does not work, it is a waste of our limited resources.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

So are you saying some laws should be ignored? How about the police ignore you if you are assaulted. That is a misdemeanor too.

Bob W

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 12:19 p.m.

Something of an interesting story but why today and not last year?

Steve Hendel

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 11:14 a.m.

We ought to admit to ourselves that the 'medical' in 'medical marijuana' is, for the most part, a thin gloss over plain old-fashioned drug dealing. 77 plants to service one client-c'mon ! Either legalize it or don't, but cut out (in most, if not all, cases) the pretense of care-giving.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

Steve Hendel- A licensed Caregiver can have up to five patients for whom they can grow up to twelve plants each. And, grow for themselves too. That's six patients, twelve plants each, 72 plants total.

Steve Hendel

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 10:23 a.m.

Angry Moderate, I should also have emphasized that the add promised extremely high pay-in excess of $2,000 per day was mentioned as a possibility. It doesn't take a CPA to figure out how they could pay that much, and what the doctor's strong incentives would be.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.

Steve, what exactly is wrong with a clinic posting a job opening for doctors--meaning people who attended medical school and passed their boards? Do you not think that every hospital and clinic posts job ads when they need to hire doctors? What a bizarre thing to criticize.

Steve Hendel

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Yes, I know it has medical uses; that was not my point. When you see roadside signs everywhere advertising "Medical marijuana licenses $75" with an appended phone number; when you see that the vast majority of licenses are held by (as i understand it) males under the age of 40-not exactly the the age group with the largest proportion of the sick and dying who were supposed to be helped by medical marijuana; when you see, as I did a year or two ago, help wanted ads in the newspaper placed by a 'clinic' advertising for doctors, and promising high pay, etc.; well, it's hard for me to come to any other than my original conclusions. Yes, legalize and regulate it-which would require a change in federal law. The federal government has elected to turn a blind eye, sorta, towards medical marijuana-but don't let's fool ourselves, that could change at any moment


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

I say decriminalize marijuana and allow states to regulate its sale; then it can be used for whichever purpose an individual chooses: medicinally and/or recreationally.

meko san

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

The problem with the research, is that it was all done at the University of French Guinea. Not exactly considered legitimate medical research protocol.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

Was only 7 plants, the police were twisting the facts around

Basic Bob

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2 p.m.

I could make the same case about recreational and self-prescribed Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Adderall. While some of these prescription drugs are taken for medicinal use, most are not. The prosecutor admitted 70 of the plants were babies and could not be counted as a drug. By the time these plants matured, the caregiver could have found more patients, but he could not get them without product.

Robert Granville

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

You're clearly incredibly ignorant of the medical breakthroughs occurring as we speak involving cannabis. It has preventive effects against many cancers and alzheimers. Have a look at the research yourself.