By Conrad Dudderar
A Poteau man has pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence for his role in a drug bust on Interstate 40 just east of Yukon.
Phongthep Tiger Chuaiduang, 41, and an accomplice were charged in October 2021 with endeavoring to cultivate a controlled dangerous substance in Canadian County District Court.
Chuaiduang and Minnesota’s Phoukhong Vongmixay, 58, had been arrested by a state trooper that spring for having about 1,000 cannabis plant stems and growing plants in their vehicle traveling along I-40 in Canadian County.
This was a violation of Oklahoma’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act.
“On May 19, 2021, I was endeavoring to cultivate cannabis plants by transporting cannabis plant stems,” according to Chuaiduang’s signed guilty plea. “The stems are CDS.”
Chuaiduang, who was driving the car, appeared with attorney William McLaughlin at a Sept. 16th court hearing where he entered the guilty plea.
Pursuant to a plea agreement between the defendant and prosecutors, Special Judge Khristan K. Strubhar deferred sentencing for five years.
The felony crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Chuaiduang was ordered to be supervised by the District Attorney’s Office and comply with rules and conditions of probation.
That includes not participating, directly or indirectly, in the marijuana industry in any state during the five-year sentencing deferral.
Chuaiduang also was ordered to pay a $7,500 fine, $200 victim’s compensation assessment and court-related costs.
Canadian County Assistant District Attorney Austin T. Murrey prosecuted the case.
On April 20 after a separate plea agreement, Vongmixay was convicted and received a three-year suspended sentence for his part in the crime.
HEADED TO ‘THE FARM’
The pair were arrested early May 19, 2021, after Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Tanner Eads stopped a 2020 Toyota Corolla on I-40 near Morgan Road in eastern Canadian County.
Trooper Eads asked the driver, Chuaiduang, to step out of the vehicle.
“While talking to Chuaiduang, I observed criminal behavior and inconsistent travel plans as they were driving from California to Oklahoma,” Eads wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
The trooper approached the car again to speak with Vongmixay, the passenger, who said they were going “to a farm.”
“Vongmixay later stated he worked for a marijuana farm,” according to Eads’ affidavit. “I asked him if he had any marijuana in the vehicle and he stated ‘yes’ and that it was in the trunk.”
Chuaiduang also confirmed there was marijuana in the vehicle’s trunk.
With probable cause to search the car, trooper Eads found a “big tub of approximately 1,000 marijuana stems used for ‘cloning’ and … two marijuana plants planted in soil.”