Fire reveals alleged marijuana operation

Patrick Fisher, Staff Writer

A fire call Friday afternoon, Aug. 22, resulted in the arrest of a New Prague man on charges of possession of a controlled substance and child endangerment.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Le Sueur County District Court on Monday, the New Prague Fire Department was called to a home at 1400 10th Street Circle SE in New Prague at 2:26 p.m. While firefighters located the source of the fire in the basement, they found what appeared to be a marijuana growing operation and notified police.

The complaint stated that the homeowner, Daniel Roy Choi, 26, arrived and refused a police officer's request to enter the home, saying he wanted to speak to an attorney. He was placed under arrest and police contacted the Le Sueur County Sheriff's Office Drug Task Force. Investigator Robert Vollmer talked to officers and firefighters and then prepared a search warrant for the home. A judge signed the warrant and police and sheriff's deputies entered the home that evening, verifying what firefighters had told them.

Officers found that three children ages 13, 9 and 8, cousins of Choi's girlfriend, had been in the house, and had gotten out without harm and were at a neighbor's house. The children were placed in protective custody by Le Sueur County Human Services, and later turned over to relatives for care.

The complaint stated that Choi, who was not at home at the time of the fire call, was called home by the children who said they had heard a noise in the basement.

In executing the search warrant, officers located approximately 12 small marijuana plants, numerous items of growing equipment, a drying apparatus, electrical lighting equipment and a portable ventilation system. Officers also located approximately 20 to 25 ounces of packaged marijuana, several containers of the drug and several mason jars that officers believed contained marijuana.

Choi is facing one count of possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree, which carries a maximum of five years in jail and/or a fine of $10,000. The charge of child endangerment has a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Choi is currently being held at the Le Sueur County Jail. The three children were turned over to relatives for care.

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