PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office says it made the largest illegal marijuana bust in its department history while serving a search warrant in Newberg on Oct. 18.
The sheriff’s office says it seized 76,930 pounds, or more than 38 tons, of cannabis and numerous guns from an illegal grow site on the 14000 block of Stone Road. Five suspects were arrested at the property, which was reportedly being operated by a major drug-trafficking organization. No licenses or permits for growing or processing cannabis were filed for the property prior to the search.
“Investigators found the entire property had been converted to facilitate the growth, storage, processing, and packaging of marijuana to be shipped or transported out of the area,” YCSO said. “Investigators recovered documents and evidence suggesting this extremely large-scale organized drug trafficking organization was routinely traveling out of state, engaging in the unlawful export of marijuana from Oregon.”
All five suspects are Newberg residents and were booked into the Yamhill County Jail, according to authorities. The suspects include 28-year-old Ulises Valdovinos Chavez, 32-year-old Luis Guerrero Rubio, 30-year-old Jose Alfredo Esquivel, 23-year-old Miguel Angel Valdovinos Chavez and 23-year-old Francisco Franco Rodriguez. The suspects were charged with the unlawful manufacture of cannabis items, and unlawful cannabis possession. The YCSO requested a judge’s override to Senate Bill 48, which kept the suspects in custody until the search was complete.
Deputies also seized two AR-15-style rifles, one Kel-Tec shotgun, multiple handguns and $80,000 in cash from the grow site, authorities said. Evidence of financial transactions with people in Mexico was reportedly also discovered.
“There were receipts recovered at the property showing multiple large dollar amount wire transfers going from Oregon to the state of Michoacan, Mexico,” YCSO said in a press release. “The property essentially was set up as a receiving and processing facility, as the amount of marijuana on the property far exceeded what could be produced on the property.”
Based on evidence, investigators say that the cannabis had been grown elsewhere and taken to the location for processing, distribution and sale. The street value of the cannabis is estimated to be worth $76.5 million in Oregon, and $269 million on the East Coast.
“Whenever information regarding a case involving marijuana enforcement is released, we always see comments about enforcement of drug laws being a waste of time, or comments about marijuana being legal,” YCSO said. “Nothing about this operation was legal. The amount of marijuana present at this address was unquestionably the result of illegal marijuana grows which in nearly every circumstance we have seen in Yamhill County, exploits human labor in substandard conditions with no workplace protections or equitable pay. From coercion, deception, to indentured servitude and threats of violence, withholding of pay or personal papers and possessions, these large-scale drug trafficking rings are the definition of organized crime, and span multiple states and countries.”
Oregon State Police, the Port of Portland Police-PDX Task Force, Newberg-Dundee Police Department, Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue assisted with the bust.