City settles property dispute related to drug operation

According to city documents, the individuals agreed to forfeit to the city their rights, title and interest to the cash.

In response to an illegal drug operation in 2020, Auburn police seized two homes, five cars, various amounts of cash and marijuana growing equipment belonging to five people in Auburn and Kent — and started the process of taking ownership of the seized items.

The owners disputed the seizures administratively and in Superior Court.

On April 1, the Auburn City Council authorized Mayor Nancy Backus to execute an agreement with Huipeng Liao, Wai Pheng Chan, Yizheng Chen, Huiping Liao and Xuchu Huang to settle their claims and divide the property.

According to city documents, the individuals agreed to forfeit to the city their rights, title and interest to the cash.

The agreement lays out how the cash and items were to be divided “in consideration of the uncertainty of litigation and the time and expenses associated with proceeding to a trial.”

Here is what happened, according to the settlement agreement.

Huiping Liao and Wai Pheng Chan own property at 3922 284th Place SE in Auburn, while Huiping Liao and Yizheng Chen own property at 12330 S. 204th St. in Kent. Following execution of the warrant, Auburn Police seized the cash, a 2014 Lexus, a 2019 Subaru WRX, a 2006 Honda Odyssey, 2015 Mercedes C30, a 2013 Mazda 3, and assorted indoor growing equipment.

The Auburn Police Department seized the cash and the two properties because, according to the agreement, police had good reason to believe that the five used or intended to use them to facilitate the sale, delivery, or receipt of controlled substances, to illegally manufacture marijuana and acquired them with proceeds from the illegal sales.

But to avoid further litigation, the city and the owners agreed to resolve the problems by dividing the seized property among them and worked out the terms of the settlement, including a written settlement agreement.

In the agreement, the parties agreed the city had cause to seize the items and followed due process. The five people also dismissed all administrative actions contesting the seizure of the personal property,

According to the language of the settlement, the agreement discharged the city “from every claim, demand, and cause of action whatsoever, of any kind and nature, whether presently known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, arising or alleged to have arisen or which shall arise hereafter as a result of the city’s seizure of their property.”