Drug detectives also found over $350,000 in cash, 14 firearms
La PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) – A lengthy investigation by Deschutes County’s Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team concluded Wednesday morning with a raid on a large-scale indoor marijuana grow southeast of La Pine, where they found and seized over 2,800 plants, $350,000 in cash and 14 guns and arrested seven people.
Detectives assisted by the sheriff’s office SWAT Team executed the search warrant around 7 a.m. on a 10-acre property in the 50000 block of state Highway 31, about 1 1/2 miles east of the Highway 97 junction, finding two commercial indoor growing facilities with 2,828 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, Sergeant Kent Vander Kamp said in a news release Thursday evening.
Along with the plants, 14 firearms, over $350,000 in U.S. currency and evidence of money-laundering schemes were found, he said.
Seven people at the site were detained by the SWAT Team and later arrested by detectives at the scene on charges of illegal delivery and manufacturing of marijuana. Five people – three from La Pine and one each from Renton and Kent, Washington – were booked into the county jail in Bend. Two other La Pine residents were cited in lieu of custody.
"The possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal for recreational use in Oregon," Vander Kamp said in a news release Wednesday evening. "However, large, unlicensed marijuana operations remain illegal. Due to these operations being unregulated, they pose dangers to the public and environment."
"Several areas in Deschutes County have been struggling with consistent groundwater sources," the sergeant continued. "Since the beginning of DCIME, investigators have found illegal marijuana grows diverted or stolen significant water from nearby homes, commercial farms, or directly from pumps connected to underground sources in the arid central Oregon High Desert.
"This particular grow site used underground well water and maintained a complex watering system that supplied several on-site (buildings and nurseries)," Vander Kamp said. "Additionally, Illegal marijuana farms often use pesticides and insecticides that threaten residential water supplies and endanger the end user."
He said DCIME detectives were assisted by the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office Detective Division, Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team, Oregon State Police and the US Drug Enforcement Administration with the investigation, eradication and dismantling of the site.
Regarding the two people cited in lieu of custody, Vander Kamp explained: "Instead of a 'physical arrest,' the citation-in-lieu releases the person on the promise to appear in court at a specified date and time.
"Due to privacy laws, we are unable to specify the reason a citation-in-lieu was used in this particular case. However, citations-in-lieu of custody are often used when people are charged with certain misdemeanor or felony offenses, are too unhealthy or ill for jail, they require emergent medical or mental health care at a hospital or several other unusual circumstances.
"However, a citation-in-lieu of custody is still an 'arrest,'" Vander Kamp wrote, ”and does not discount the seriousness of the alleged crimes."