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Alleged manager of raided big Alfalfa marijuana grow arrested in Texas — on the job, scooping ice cream

Aerial view of portion of large Alfalfa illegal marijuana grow raided in Sept. 2021
Deschutes County Sheriff's Office
Aerial view of portion of large Alfalfa illegal marijuana grow raided in Sept. 2021

Second arrest in case: 'We got the bottom two and are working our way up the food chain'

ALFALFA, Ore. (KTVZ) – Nearly 18 months after a major raid on a large illegal marijuana grow in Alfalfa run by a Mexican drug cartel, one of the alleged managers of the operation has been arrested by authorities in Houston, Texas -- while on the job scoping ice cream, a Central Oregon drug agent said Monday.

It’s the second arrest reported in the lengthy investigation, with more forthcoming, Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp said.

Back on Sept. 2, 2021, detectives with the Deschutes County Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team, assisted by the sheriff’s office SWAT Team, raided the large-scale illicit marijuana grow near Dodds and Alfalfa Market roads, finding 49 greenhouses containing more than 9,200 marijuana plants and 2,800 pounds of processed marijuana, along with two pistols and an AR-15 rifle.

About 20 people were detained and later released at the scene; drug agents said several suspects, both foreign and domestic, were identified, with one arrested at the scene and cited to appear in court. Vander Kamp said more arrests would come later after follow-up investigations were completed.

Most laborers found working on the site were Mexican nationals, illegally trafficked into the U.S. and forced to work in the illegal marijuana trade, Deschutes County sheriff’s Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp said. They were found living in primitive wooden structures and dome tents with limited sources for clean water and dumping wastewater directly into the soil.

Denise Elaine Johnson, 56, of Bend was arrested at the address on drug charges. She later pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to three years probation, along with 12 days spent in jail, due to her lack of a criminal record, officials said.

Detectives identified several other people involved in the case as suspects, including Robert Nicolas Scheeler, 30, of Houston, who Vander Kamp said was one of the people identified as allegedly being responsible for facilitating the grow location and managing the operation.

The sergeant said Scheeler fled the U.S. after the raid, and an arrest warrant was issued after he was indicted by a grand jury and later failed to appear in court.

Last June, Scheeler was detained on that warrant by federal Customs and Border Protection agents when he tried to re-enter the U.S. from Mexico through a port of entry in Texas, Vander Kamp said.

However, the Harris County, Texas Jail refused to house him, due to ongoing COVID protocols, and ultimately he was released into the U.S., the sergeant said

Deschutes County drug detectives continued to search for Scheeler and found him living in a Houston RV park.

Last Friday, Scheeler was arrested on the outstanding warrant by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Violent Persons Task Force Criminal Warrants Section. Vander Kamp said he was on the job, in his uniform, scooping ice cream at a Marble Slab Creamery outlet in Houston.

 Scheeler is being held without bail at the county jail there pending extradition to Deschutes County. Vander Kamp said an initial appearance will be scheduled once he returns to Oregon and is booked into jail in Bend.

Vander Kamp called the cartel operating the drug raid “a very dynamic group” that had recruited some locals, with Scheeler “running the day-to-day of this facility” and Johnson “basically the labor manager.”

“We got the bottom two and are working our way up the food chain,” the sergeant said, adding that  federal agents are working on the element involving human trafficking.

He said seasonal, outdoor greenhouses operated by Mexican drug cartels will likely be coming to life in the next few months as the weather warms; Chinese and Russian drug rings operate indoor grows.

“We are watching a couple of new Chinese grows now,” Vander Kamp said. “There’s also Ukrainian growers popping up in the Northwest.”

The Deschutes County Illegal Marijuana Enforcement (DCIME) program is a partnership between the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office and Bend Police Department to address illegal marijuana activity.

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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Barney Lerten

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