Jimi Anderson, 60, suspected nothing amiss in the house of his pleasant and friendly neighbors in a hip section of lower Kensington.
The couple had two boys who went to school every morning and to karate class twice a week, Anderson said. The family recently got a puppy.
"Even today, I don't have a bad word to say about them," Anderson said Friday after news broke that Vinh Quang Nguyen, 41, had been arrested and charged with growing hundreds of marijuana plants in his three-story house in the 2300 block of Frankford Avenue.
Authorities raided the house Thursday and reported they found 343 full-grown plants - many of which were more than five feet tall.
Investigators also found 150 plants "in the incubation stage," according to Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
More than 500 pounds of marijuana was recovered, including three large bags of cut marijuana, Jamerson said.
Nguyen had an "elaborate and dangerous electrical wiring system" to power the heat lamps needed to grow the plants, the District Attorney's Office said.
Agents from the District Attorney's Office Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency also reported they found a system set up to use fabric softener to mask the odor of the marijuana.
Nguyen, who was held with bail set at $1 million, was charged with possession with intent to distribute, risking a catastrophe, endangering the welfare of a child, and knowing and intentional possession of a controlled substance.
Nguyen's children, who slept about 15 feet from the alleged growing rooms, were at school when their father was arrested, Jamerson said.
There was no answer late Friday afternoon when a reporter knocked on Nguyen's front door.
Anderson, the neighbor, said the family was living in the house when he moved in 21/2 years ago.
"We talked a few minutes every day," Anderson said.
Nguyen talked about saving money to open a Chinese restaurant, Anderson recalled.
During the summer, the boys played in an inflatable pool on a vacant lot next to their house, he said.
As far as he knew, Anderson said, Nguyen and his family were "just average people."