PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Over the span of several months, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office says it has shut down a spate of illegal marijuana busts, including two large operations recently, which deputies credit to funding from the state of Oregon.
In February, a joint effort between LCSO and multiple local law enforcement agencies shut down an operation that spanned seven locations across the county that were part of a marijuana manufacturing and processing ring, authorities said.
While executing the search warrant, authorities discovered 16,000 marijuana plants growing in nine buildings on the property near Eugene, according to officials. “Approximately $280,000 in US currency, firearms as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in vehicles and grow equipment were discovered to be directly involved in the operation,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
LCSO said “an illegal professional-scale marijuana refinement facility” was also shut down in west Eugene. Large volumes of unregulated highly flammable materials were found at the facility and required a Hazmat crew to respond.
It was later determined the marijuana grown for this operation was being sold out of state and overseas, including in Texas, Minnesota, Arkansas and France, authorities said.
Seven people are currently in custody for crimes related to this operation, but officials expect more arrests.
More recently, on March 15, deputies and local authorities executed search warrants at multiple residences in the Eugene-Springfield area, one in Happy Valley and a grow location in Eugene. Neighboring properties made numerous complaints against the operation, tipping deputies off of possible illegal activity. Deputies reviewed surveillance video and determined three houses in Lane County and one residence in Happy Valley belonged to the suspects — which were all subsequently searched, authorities said.
The search netted more than 12,000 marijuana plants, 3,600 pounds of processed marijuana, $400,000 and multiple firearms, authorities said.
While investigating, authorities learned multiple suspects were involved in a Transcontinental Drug Trafficking Organization in King County, Washington where more than $9 million was wired to China under different LLC names in 2017, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Interviews revealed the people working for the operation had been promised between $3,000 to $5,000 each month, officials said. One worker, who claimed he hadn’t received payment in months despite working 13-hour days for seven days a week, told authorities there had been two armed robberies at the grow location that had gone unreported, LCSO said.
Three arrests were made in connection to this operation. The names were not immediately released.
LCSO said approximately $500,000 worth of electricity was used by each of these grows per year. The Lane County Code Enforcement and the Oregon State Watermaster’s Office are handling the numerous water use and building safety code violations.
Since being awarded the funding in 2022, the Sheriff’s Office has conducted multiple large-scale busts which they say were sometimes linked to international criminal activity. LCSO said the funding has allowed more resources to be directed toward investigating larger-scale operations illegally selling marijuana.