10-09 Drug Bust

A search warrant executed on Thursday morning resulted in a massive illegal marijuana grow operation, which law enforcement believes may be the largest ever seized in Lake County.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office shutdown on Thursday morning what is believed to be the largest illegal marijuana grow operation yet discovered in the region.

A search warrant was issued last Wednesday and executed Thursday morning on an undisclosed private property north of Lakeview by Sheriff deputies with assistance from Oregon State Police and Lake County Probation and Parole. Six people were arrested on site, with four other suspects being pursued that fled from the scene and as of last report were still at-large.

Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security were brought in from Medford to assist with the investigation of the site. The approximately 20-acre property encompassed 17 greenhouses, a large barn used for processing and storage, a semi-truck trailer filled with trimmings, commercial agricultural equipment, and a trailer loaded with marijuana-filled plastic totes ready for transport.

The site had been under surveillance since May following an anonymous tip, including several flyovers to observe potential illegal operations.

“They had already harvested and packed marijuana in totes for transport,” said Lake County Sheriff Deputy Mike Patterson. “An anonymous tip was provided in May about the site, and we have been investigating it ever since. We don’t have a lot of grows here, little ones here and there, not big ones like this.”

According to Oregon State Police Sergeant Scott Hill, the approximate street value in Oregon is $1,000 per pound, but that number increases significantly if transported out-of-state.

“In Florida it might be as much as $4,000 a pound, it’s not the largest I have seen before, but this is probably the largest in Lake County,” said Hill. “This is 100% an illegal grow, we have no evidence of legality. It is not a medical grow or documented recreational grow.”

Lake County Sheriff Mike Taylor reported that approximately 4,000 pounds of harvested marijuana was seized on-site, with a street value of roughly $4 million. The bulk of the seized drugs were destroyed, with the remainder stored as evidence. Property valued around $50,000 that had been used for the cultivation of marijuana was also seized and is being held as evidence, which may eventually result in seizure forfeiture.

The individuals arrested on the scene are being charged with unlawful manufacturing of marijuana, unlawful delivery of marijuana, unlawful possession of marijuana, and unlawful importation and exportation of marijuana.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating with the Lake County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether or not to pursue federal charges.

Sheriff Taylor thanked the coordinated cooperation of Oregon State Police-Lakeview Detachment for being instrumental in bringing the investigation to a positive conclusion.

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