In recent years, Kansas has accused Coloradans of trafficking marijuana in that state on a regular basis -- and its attorney general is reportedly still considering the possibility of joining a lawsuit against Colorado over the pot laws here, as filed by AGs in Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Amid this tension, a Lakewood man, Hok Uy, is being portrayed in some quarters as the kingpin of a scheme to ship cannabis to Kansas and another state, Illinois. However, pot beefs against him were recently dropped, and he insists he's broken no laws despite money-laundering accusations and the seizure of cash totaling more than $200,000.
Along with Uy, Aivi Vo, his wife, is mentioned frequently in assorted court documents accessed by 7News, which has been leading the way in the reporting of this story.
Uy and Vo are listed as general managers of Maxim Lounge, with responsibilities that include putting on events like the one advertised on the following poster; the club's events page lists them as contacts.
Vo's Facebook page features a Maxim Lounge event link, as well as plenty of photos featuring her and Uy, including this one:
They unquestionably make a gorgeous couple, and Vo's page doesn't include any references to marijuana that we could find. Instead, the most recent posts are of the pair's child, for whom she encourages Facebookers to vote in a cutest-baby competition.
Regarding Uy's legal troubles, they began in March 2014, when he and Vo were stopped by law-enforcement officers in Russell County, Kansas -- something that's far from uncommon for residents of the Rocky Mountain State, many of whom believe Kansas officers are profiling cars with Colorado plates.
No marijuana was located -- but officers found $115,000 in cash.
Vo reportedly insisted that the money was from Maxim Lounge, but the officers were doubtful, especially after they looked at text messages on her Blackberry. Police reports maintain that the phone was used by Uy "almost exclusively for the coordination of marijuana sales between Hok Uy and drug trafficking members" in Chicago and Wichita, Kansas.
The cash was seized, but the investigation didn't heat up again until that July, when UPS investigators opened a package sent by Uy to a man in Wichita. It supposedly held beef jerky, but instead, the box contained $68,000 in cash wrapped in soy-sauce-soaked paper towels -- something done to disguise the aroma of "drug-scented money," the documents suggest.
The man to whom the cash had been sent subsequently told the cops that Uy was his "boss man;" Uy supposedly paid him between $2,000 and $4,000 per cash shipment -- presumably payments for marijuana Uy shipped from Colorado to people in Wichita. The man reportedly insisted that he didn't distribute any marijuana himself, but a subsequent search turned up weed, $70,000 in cash and receipts for packages of "beef jerky" shipped to Uy's home in Lakewood.
Uy was busted in Colorado later that month, and in his home, cops found just over $40,000 in cash and 88.7 grams of pot -- a little over three ounces. Regarding the pot, he allegedly claimed to have been a medical marijuana patient but was unable to immediately provide the paperwork to prove it.
Had law agencies in Colorado and Kansas collected enough evidence to show that Uy was running a big drug-distribution network? Not according to a Colorado court. Last week, 7News reveals in an update, the judge hearing the case ordered Uy to be tried for money laundering, but tossed one money-laundering count, plus two others involving marijuana distribution.
That will presumably make it harder for prosecutors to portray Uy as the sort of Colorado pot high-roller they've been demonizing for so long.
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Look below to see Uy's mug shot.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.