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C.O. drug agents dismantle large Chinese cartel marijuana operation in six Jefferson County raids; five arrests

Location on Bear Drive in Madras, one of six sites raided for involvement in illegal marijuana grow operation
Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team
Location on Bear Drive in Madras, one of six sites raided for involvement in illegal marijuana grow operation

14 Chinese laborers trafficked into U.S.; proceeds allegedly laundered through Chinese restaurants

MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Central Oregon drug agents concluded a 2-year investigation Tuesday by raiding six Madras and Culver illegal marijuana grows, making five arrests and dismantling an international operation tied to a Chinese cartel that laundered proceeds through Chinese restaurants and other businesses, officials said.

On Tuesday, as initially reported earlier, detectives with the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Deschutes County Illegal Marijuana Enforcement team, and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations concluded the two-year investigation involving an international drug organization that is alleged to be growing and processing illicit marijuana from Madras and Culver before delivering it to Portland for nationwide distribution. 

The CODE Team case began with community complaints, and tips about several of the organization’s 20 grow locations in the Jefferson County area. As a result, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office detectives began investigating and discovered a complex criminal network that required investigative assistance. 

Jefferson County sheriff’s detectives requested the assistance of the CODE Team and the Deschutes County Illicit Marijuana Enforcement Team to further their investigation.

Over the next 18 months, CODE and DCIME detectives, special agents, and intelligence analysts conducted hundreds of hours of physical and electronic surveillance on over 23 members of the organization, 20 properties, bank accounts, and Chinese-food restaurants around the Pacific Northwest and Asia. 

With the assistance of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, US Customs and Border Patrol, US Department of Homeland Security, CODE, and DCIME, Detectives determined the organizational structure and identified the leadership. It was discovered that proceeds from the marijuana sales were often laundered through Chinese restaurants and businesses before being diverted back to China, disguised as an international business transaction.

A 64-year-old Madras man is alleged to be one of the leaders in this criminal organization. The illicit grow site properties are owned mainly by him or with his family members or a business entity owned and controlled by him. A few other property owners have been identified as members of the organization and are still outstanding at his time, officials said. 

Most of the14 Chinese laborers contacted by detectives were trafficked into the United States through Mexico and found work in restaurants throughout Oregon and Washington. Later, this cartel organization recruited restaurant laborers to work in the illegal marijuana trade for salary. The laborers were found living at the grow sites and often were moved by the cartel from one grow site to another. 

CODE and DCIME detectives, with the assistance of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, the Central Oregon Emergency Response Team (CERT), and the Southern Oregon OSP Marijuana Team  executed six search warrants -- four in Madras, on SW Dover Lane, SW Bear Drive and two on NE Hilltop, and two in Culver, on SW Ford Lane and SW Feather Drive,

During the raids, 15 people were detained, and 16,240 pounds of processed marijuana, 17,704 plants, four firearms and a "large US currency cache" were seized as evidence, drug agents said.

Ten laborers were detained, identified, interviewed, and later released by detectives.

Five men were arrested at the scene and later lodged at the Jefferson County Jail. All were charged with illegal marijuana manufacturing, delivery and possession, while the Madras alleged leader of the operation also was charged with illegal possession of a firearm. Two of the men were from Madras, one from Beaverton, one from Portland and the fifth from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Several additional suspects, both foreign and domestic, have been identified. Detectives said they expect additional arrests are forthcoming, once additional follow-up investigations are complete. 

CODE and DCIME said they "dismantled the largest, more active grow sites operated by this organization." Investigators know the remaining locations and will dismantle these sites soon."

The possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal for recreational use in Oregon, they noted. However, large, unlicensed marijuana operations remain illegal. Due to these operations being unregulated, they "pose dangers to the public and the environment," the news release stated.

The Culver and Madras community and surrounding areas in Jefferson County have been struggling with severe drought conditions. Since the beginning of CODE and 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.

"These growing sites used underground water and assigned water rights while maintaining a complex watering system that supplied over 17,000 plants," the CODE Team news release stated. 

Additionally, Illegal marijuana farms, including this one, often use pesticides and insecticides that threaten residential water supplies and endanger the end user. 

Illegal marijuana grows facilities have a very high electrical demand due to the lights, fans, and other equipment used. Many of these grow sites used jerry-rigged copper wire, extension cords, and power strips secured with zip ties as permanent exterior wiring for processing equipment, lighting, fans, etc. Overloaded electrical wiring has caused fires in other marijuana to grow facilities. The Jefferson County building compliance staff also examined these properties for building code violations. 

CODE and DCIME were assisted at the scene by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Crook County Sheriff’s Office, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, US Homeland Security, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration with the investigation, eradication, and dismantling of these sites. 

KTVZ news sources

Comments

109 Comments

    1. That’s cute that you voted no, just like I did for Trump. But I hope that someday your little brain realizes the only reason there’s incentive to do this is due to the backwards republican states still making it illegal- Thus creating the incentive and market for this marijuana. You DO realize this is being sold to the states where pot is still illegal… right. This pot is not sold here in Oregon. Do you need me to spell it out for you? So… THANKS to backwards and confused folks like yourself, we’ll continue to see this stuff here in Oregon… so that people in conservative states can still get their pot. THANK YOU for creating the market incentive in other states, that draws cartel crime to Oregon, republicans!

      1. “This pot is not sold here in Oregon.” “Do you need me to spell it out for you?” “So… THANKS to backwards and confused folks like yourself…” Sweetie I hope you realize we live in a Democratic state. Not to mention a certain someone actually believed that it is up to the states to decide if they want to legalize weed. Do I need to spell out who that was? Yeah his name is Donald Trump. So Republican’s “drawing cartel crime to Oregon” has NOTHING TO DO WITH US. I hope one day you realize how little sense you make.

        1. How about the flip-flopping standards in general… for two years you couldn’t call it a Chinese virus- cause it triggered hate crimes ??? But it’s now to OK to call them Chinese Cartels… like that won’t generate hate crimes ??? Wishy washy standards most Americans despise.

          1. It must really suck to be a miserable old Codger who has to invent things to whine and complain about in every article where none exist. Oh, and one more thing. Get off my Lawn you whippersnapper!

          2. Don’t ever try and speak for the rest of us again, nothing you think is what most Americans think. This statement is almost beyond your typical dribble. You really are not a bright human. Start with COCC and work your way up to your GED, it’s ok, you’re not too late.

            1. He says worse, to many, every day. Where do we draw the line? Where will YOU fellow commenters draw the line? It won’t be perfect, but we hope new system will make for a better, more worthwhile experience for all who read and comment.

              1. If nobody replied or responded to triggering comments, and instead just kept scrolling or even attempt to find any point that they could say I could see that.
                Then maybe all the ridiculous rhetoric would fizzle out.

                If somebody is constantly egging people on there’s little to no chance on having any sort of constructive conversation or debate.

                So just treat them like you’re great great grandfather who’s always just saying super offensive stuff.

                Also, everyone should switch their political party to independent. It has helped me to look at the issues independently and decide my votes based merit in a way I don’t believe I would if I’d been a part of either party.

                That’s just my opinion is said towards everyone on the internet. Thanks to Barney for your patience, your work, and for everything you do 🥰

                1. Thank you. If the regulars could just debate the issues and share their views without the often-offensive personal attacks, many more people would feel safe to comment here. We’re hoping the Viafoura platform will make things better. Not silly enough to think it’ll make everyone (anyone?) happy.

                2. Sorry Eddy- I think it goes a bit deeper then that… this is all about a very large number of regional folks who had to put up with- tolerate- try and ignore six years of negativity about “all” things- towards a very popular President- one that was doing the right thing for us- and it sure as hell wasn’t Obama or Biden. The constant bullying on this site was/remains symptomatic to a deeper hate. The vulgar language allowed then- is now off limits- the personal attacks back then were A-OK… now ? “I dunno who started it”. You change the rules mid-game… yer gonna get an earful- and your man of patience has been at the helm since day one… this is on him- and everything he does.

            2. Know what you are Fester- an old geezer with no job- no take- and now no money cause Joey’s taking it all- and worse yet- the Mod feels so bad for you- he has to step in and defend your lameness by deflecting it somewhere else… so predictable- no wonder this site is shutting this down for a new system.

              1. No, that’s YOU looking in the mirror. Hopefully, the new system will come with a “Crusty Old Troll” detector, and we’ll never hear another spew fest from you again.

                1. Community moderation as well as other moderators with an AI-assisted system.) Likes/dislikes. up/downvotes (like Reddit). Sorting capability including “most liked” (recent etc.)
                  Every tool is a weapon, every weapon is a tool. We’ll see if it makes things better. Never perfect.

            3. The American Virus? You sound like you hate America. I can pay for a one way ticket to Kabul. Kinda hot in the summer but a beautiful place. I think you’ll like it a lot more since you don’t seem to like America. Just an offer so let me know! =)

          3. BGHW ~ oh please. Chinese cartels exist. Have for years.

            The “Chinese virus” is a racist ugly term. Of course you would not see that.

  1. Again, you folks that support joey and his policies should send him a letter. Be certain to thank him for doing everything he can to keep our southern border secure as a sieve.

    1. – you are able to do basic math, right? – who was in office when these people arrived and these operations were set up? – you know, there are plenty of legitimate things to blame on Biden so why not give one of them a try?

          1. And his Hero Criminal Treasonous Insurrectionist Fat Slob who tried his best to get a mob of useful Idiots to Kill his Vice President is heading towards serious prison time.

      1. They said the investigation began two years ago, not that the illegals came over or that these were set up two years ago. You’re able to read, right? The border is a disaster, I don’t think you need to be a super genius to realize that but…

      2. Tio- what does “math” have to do with time frames ??? Yer so spittin’ mad at Biden’s failures that you can’t even think straight !

    2. At least he didn’t give his lowlife dirtbag friends Billions to build that sieve that is the few miles of fake wall, that can be cut up with a cordless Sawsall in a matter of minutes.

      1. Your comment- in light of the 60 billion bucks Lyin Bydin has given to the Ukraine- for a war he helped start- falls on deaf ears.

    3. True, he could at least force them to enter via the northern border which is how my ancestors avoided the lines on the east coast when they got here.

  2. This is good news and good work! Not only have Chinese fentanyl deaths in Oregon increased 40% since last year, they’ve been growing narcotics in our back yard. When will it be bad enough for America to wake up?

    1. – “Chinese fentanyl deaths”? “growing narcotics?” – maybe calming down a bit before you hit the keyboard wouldn’t be a bad thing?

        1. As did the CV19 virus- yet Biden is talking of rewarding that nation by lowering Trump era tariffs- still don’t get it do you.

      1. He thinks fentanyl pills grow on bushes and the trafficked workers used their small hands to pick them gently off the branches… Lordy, people are dumb. This was a huge marijuana grow. Not fentanyl. If fentanyl was being trafficked through this business, it’s a bit different than “growing narcotics” which unless you have massive poppy farm, like we protected in Afghanistan, isn’t really a thing.

      1. Too many dopers in America- you obviously missed the British expose on how Portland Oregon has gone from a beautiful city- to one littered with homeless camps and junkies shooting up all day long on the streets… forty of years of Demokkkrat rule in full view.

      1. So Nancy Pelosi’s husband “Paul” is off limits when it talks to failed “Just say no” policies ? Where’s the TOS violation ? Nancy Pelosi is fair game- as is Hunter Biden… and L@U’s LOL.

      1. Do you have any inkling as to how the supply chain debacle came about- and why bringing in more Chinese goods will only multiply the problem ten-fold ? Some of you are amazingly thick !

        1. Most of the 14 Chinese laborers contacted by detectives were trafficked into the United States through Mexico.
          The wall was never finished, and therefor, don’t have a leg to stand on, how could you possibly know if the wall would have worked as it was never finished, you are as FAKE as the news you read, and listen to. It does show your ignorance straight up, and your full on TDS.

          1. What is the difference between fence and wall?
            The difference between a fence and a wall is that you can almost always see through a fence, at least to some degree, while a wall is solid.

            It was never going to stop anyone that wants into the United States

          2. Maybe because as it was being built, people were demonstrating how to scale it and cut chunks out of it? That might have given everyone a slight clue as to it’s proposed effectiveness. Thanks for playing. Try again. Talk about ignorance!

  3. When will America learn? We clearly need to harden our border policies and make it so illicit drug cartels don’t want to do business here. Yeah, that means getting pretty mean with how we enforce drug laws, both domestically (on the demand side) and on the import(supply) side. After the first few dozen drug dealers are put in prison for life or executed, folks will start to get the message.

  4. Possession of 5 kilos of weed (or sales of less than 5 kilos) in China can get you the death penalty or a life sentence. So I’m betting Oregon seems pretty low risk to them, comparatively speaking.

  5. No wonder the chinese food is better in madras and redmond, than bend… I can see why jefferson county voted heckathorn out if he cant find any crimes more severe than a pot grow up there
    🤔
    The real question is whether these “community complaints” were specifically about illegal drugs or just foreigners in general

    1. Hard to get Meth off the streets when a 100 lbs can be made in a bathtub out of drain cleaner and other poisons you can buy at a home improvement store.

    1. Right, because between being blown down by the wind, climbed with and without a ladder, or cut with a portable power saw, the wall has proven so very effective. Might as well flush our tax dollars.

  6. I wonder how much money they made over a 2 year investigation. Probably millions. It’s totally worth it. 15 illegals will get asylum. The perpetrators will plead guilty to code violations and the other charges will be dismissed. On to their next business venture. Criminal Justice Reform.

        1. Agreed. This comment section used to be at least civilized to some degree. Like everything else in America, we are succeeding power to the most ignorant. No Dialogue, just he said she said spew fest. I’m not long for here, but I sure hope things in America improve for the better for my daughter.

          1. Agreed. I have many times here listed a couple groups I support that is dedicated to efforts to turn down the hate and polarization. We can only pray for progress. We’ll see how our new system from Viafoura might help. At the least, folks will be able to up/downvote (like/dislike), edit their comments for typos for a few minutes, and flag comments they view as offensive. Over time, that will raise the bar on what is allowed – NOT by political viewpoint, but the way it’s expressed.

  7. And has the investigation expanded to include the large number of hangers at Prineville Airport that are leased/owned by various Chinese businesses…

    1. They were using Oregon trail cards to buy bottled water. Watering the plants and then getting the 10 cents deposit back to help with cash flow. They could be filling tankers down at the bottle return place and adding to the pile of caps in the gutter down there

  8. “Most of the14 Chinese laborers contacted by detectives were trafficked into the United States through Mexico”

    And lefties still won’t remove their blinders with regard to border policy that is also bringing in the avalanche of fentanyl.

  9. Wait – wait – I thought it was only refuges coming across our southern border. How can it be that these laborers were “trafficed” across????

  10. The same sad haters who sit on their porches complaining and whining about Biden and how he has destroyed their pathetic lives. How about a different tune or move along to Fox and Idiot Friends already?

      1. You’re making it more and more easy to delete your comments, for reasons (offensive personal attacks) obvious to everyone but you. And yes, I’ve deleted many that attack you as well. Proof it has nothing to do with the political viewpoint.

    1. Stoner,I ask you again. Are you better off now than you were in 2020? If so please elaborate. This comment is not meant to be negative, just an honest question. Still waiting for your response.

  11. This isn’t surprising. I’m an engineer in the legal commercial sector and we do business in almost every state that has a legalized medical or rec program. When North Dakota approved Medical they issued about 8K production licenses which is a bit off the rails. About 80 of the licensed surnames are either Chinese or Eastern European. They claim 20 pounds of production and ship the additional 200 Lbs. out of state. Nobody wants this shut down more than the legal operators that are losing their rears to the black market.

  12. So not only the cartels are poisoning and murdering our youth but now the Chinese do it too and it take 2 years to investigate and shut down a large enough operation that you see it from outer space. Way to go Oregon, way to go Brandon.

    1. Considering the grow started during the
      Trump administration and shut down under Biden, you should make your thanks to Biden more sincere than sarcastic.

  13. @fatherschild-i cant read so i just look at the pictures. I find it ironic that the canal runs right next to this operation. Seems to be pretty convenient.

  14. I can’t believe they still waist our tax dollars on Marijuana investigations. There are so many other things they could be doing! Sad.

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