Lane County law enforcement dismantle colossal illegal marijuana operations | News

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EUGENE, Ore. – A search warrant that was served on Wednesday was the second bust of a massive illegal marijuana production operation in the last 30 days, and the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said both operations called for the assistance of numerous law enforcement agencies including the DEA and FBI.

According to the LCSO, on February 15, 2023, the LCSO, Eugene Police Department, Springfield Police Department, Oregon State Police, Drug Enforcement Administration, Douglas Interagency Narcotic Team and the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched seven locations in Lane County related to the investigation. The LCSO said law enforcement seized more than 16,000 plants from nine buildings on just one property that was searched that day. In all, they seized about $280,000 in U.S. currency, guns, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in vehicles and equipment discovered to be involved in the operation, according to the LCSO. Deputies said the investigation found marijuana from the operation was being sold out-of-state to places like Texas, Minnesota, Arkansas, and even places as far away as France.

Lane County illegal marijuana growing operation

Among the sites busted in the February search was a professional-scale marijuana refinement facility on west 12th Avenue in Eugene, the LCSO said. Deputies said the site was located just feet away from the Amazon Canal, and had large volumes of highly flammable chemicals that require a full-scale hazardous materials team to clean up. That clean-up is still ongoing as of March 17.

Lane County Illegal marijuana chemicals

According to the LCSO, seven people were arrested in February for their involvement in the operation, including one person who was on probation in Texas who had been caught shipping marijuana through the United States Postal Service. More arrests are expected. The LCSO said several building and water code violations were found, and agencies are working to obtain compliance from those responsible.

Lane County illegal marijuana operation equipment

An unrelated warrant execution on March 15 brought in elements from the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Springfield Police Department, Eugene Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Douglas Interagency Narcotic Team, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI. The LCSO said the investigation searched multiple residences in the Eugene-Springfield area, a home in Happy Valley in Clackamas County, and a grow location south of Eugene. Deputies said that investigators seized more than 12,000 marijuana plants and more than 3,600 pounds of processed marijuana.

Local authorities speak about dangers of illegal marijuana operations after search warrant service

According to the LCSO, they became aware of the grow location when several neighboring properties complained about it. Deputies said the property had two large buildings built specifically for producing marijuana. The LCSO said investigative surveillance determined that those responsible for the grow site live in three houses in Lane County and one house in Happy Valley. Those houses were searched, and guns, marijuana and more than $400,000 in U.S. currency were located, authorities said. At two of the homes, authorities said occupants were unwilling to come into custody and at a residence on Q Street in Springfield authorities had to use a flash sound diversionary device to gain compliance.

Lane County illegal marijuana drying operation

During the investigation, detectives found that several of the suspects had been involved in a 2017 organized crime ring in Washington State that was described as a Transcontinental Drug Trafficking Organization. According to the LCSO, Washington investigators found that over $9 million had been wired to China under different LLC names.

The LCSO said their search was assisted by Chinese interpreters from the FBI. During interviews with workers at the grow operation, the LCSO said they found workers at the grow had been promised as much as $5,000 a month, but were not being paid. One said he hadn’t been paid for upwards of four months, and hadn’t received his promised pay for about a year. The worker also said they were being made to work 13-hour days, seven days a week to increase production. The worker is reported to have told deputies that he would like to leave, but couldn’t do so if he wanted to be paid. According to that worker, the location had been the target of two armed robberies in the last year that had gone unreported to police.

Lane County illegal marijuana operation worker living conditions

Three individuals were arrested for their involvement in the operation, the LCSO said. The investigation is ongoing.

The LCSO said they were able to dismantle this colossal operation thanks in part to a 2022 grant awarded by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to be used for the investigation and dismantling of large-scale criminal marijuana operations like this one. The LCSO also thanked the numerous other law enforcement agencies as well as the Oregon National Guard, who provided analytical help, for their assistance in this operation. Without the funds and the assistance, the LCSO said they would not have the resources to take down complex organizations such as these.

To hear more from the LCSO deputies who carried out these busts on how these investigations work and what effects illegal operations like these can have on the community, tune in to KEZI 9 News at 4, 5 and 6 p.m.

Lane County law enforcement dismantle colossal illegal marijuana operations | News

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