In 2022, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office was awarded a limited amount of funding by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to investigate and shut down large-scale criminal marijuana manufacturing operations. The Sheriff’s Office has utilized this funding to shut down several operations that have negatively impacted our community and without the grant funding, LCSO would not have the resources needed to conduct the investigations. Investigative resources are focused on large scale operations that illegally sell their product on the black market undermining licensed growers and producers. Often these unregulated operations negatively impact the environment, violate land use laws, construction safety codes, and labor laws. The following case summaries are recent examples of how this limited funding has been used.
LCSO Case # 23-0047
On February 15, 2023, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Eugene Police Department, Springfield Police Department, Oregon State Police, Drug Enforcement Administration, Douglas Interagency Narcotic Team and the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants at 7 locations throughout Lane County after a year long investigation into large criminal marijuana manufacturing and processing ring. During the execution of the warrants law enforcement seized over 16,000 marijuana plants growing in 9 buildings on a property off of Crow Road outside Eugene. 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. During the investigation it was learned that marijuana from the operation was being sold out of state to places including Texas, Minnesota, Arkansas and even as far away as France. One of those arrested was already on probation in Texas after he was caught shipping marijuana through the United States Postal Service.
An illegal professional-scale marijuana refinement facility was located and shut down on W. 12th Ave. in West Eugene as part of the operation. This site is located just feet from the Amazon Canal (See attached photos). The refinement facility contained large volumes of unregulated highly flammable materials that requires a full scale Hazmat crew to safely clean up. The cleanup process is ongoing.
Seven people were arrested for their involvement in the operation and more arrests are expected. Law enforcement was assisted at the scenes by Lane County Code Enforcement, the State of Oregon Watermasters, Eugene/Springfield Fire, and Eugene Code Enforcement. Several code and water violations were located, and the agencies are working to obtain compliance with those responsible.
LCSO Case # 23-0039
On March 15th, 2023, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Springfield Police Department, Eugene Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Douglas Interagency Narcotic Teams Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants at numerous residences in the Eugene-Springfield area, a residence in Happy Valley (Clackamas County) and a grow location south of Eugene. Investigators seized over 12,000 marijuana plants and 3600 pounds of processed marijuana. Deputies had become aware of the grow location after several complaints from neighboring properties. The property contained two 60’X300’ buildings built strictly for marijuana production. LCSO began an investigation and through surveillance determined those responsible for the operation in Lane County resided in three houses in Lane County and one house in Happy Valley, Oregon. The three residences in Lane County were searched with the agencies listed above, while the Happy Valley location was secured by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. During searches of the involved residences, firearms, marijuana and over $400,000 in US Currency was located.
During the investigation deputies learned that several of the suspects had been involved in a 2017 organized criminal ring in King County Washington in what was described as a ‘TCO’ or Transcontinental Drug Trafficking Organization. During the Washington investigation it was learned that over 9 million dollars had been wired to China under different LLC names.
At two of the locations Law Enforcement found occupants unwilling to exit and in one case, at a residence on Q Street, a flash sound diversionary device was used to gain compliance.
Lane County detectives were assisted by Chinese interpreters from the FBI. During interviews it was learned that the workers at the grow had been promised between $3000-$5000 per month. One of the workers indicated he hadn’t been paid for 3-4 months and hadn’t received his promised pay for about one year. The worker indicated that they were made to work 7 days a week and 13 hour days to increase production. The worker told detectives he would like to leave, but couldn’t or he would never be paid for his work. The same worker revealed that the grow location off Dillard Road was the target of two armed robberies in the last two years that went unreported to police. In one of the robberies, the suspects pointed firearms at the workers and told them that they were police officers.
Three people were arrested for their involvement in the operation and investigations are ongoing.
These are very large-scale criminal operations. Individually, each of these grows was consuming approximately $500,000 per year in electricity.
Lane County Code Enforcement and the Oregon State Watermaster’s Office responded to these grow locations and are dealing with numerous violations regarding water use and building safety codes.
LCSO would like to thank all the partner agencies that assisted in these investigations as well as analytical help from the Oregon National Guard. Without the assistance of our partners, LCSO would not have adequate resources to investigate and dismantle these highly complex operations.