A Deschutes County drug enforcement team raided and dismantled an illegal 30-acre marijuana growing operation in Alfalfa that detectives said was operated by a Mexican drug cartel. The team seized 9,227 plants and 2,800 pounds of processed marijuana in what is considered the largest drug seizure in the county’s history. Two pistols and an AR-15 rifle were also seized.
Detectives, along with the SWAT team from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, arrived at the property on Dodds Road and Alfalfa Market Road on Thursday. Officials have detained and released about 21 people, most of them Mexican residents who were illegally trafficked into the United States to work in the illegal marijuana trade, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Sgt said. Kent Vander Kamp.
“We haven’t arrested any of the migrant workers,” said Vander Kamp. “Most of them were there to pay off the debt after being smuggled into the country.”
The workers were found living in wooden structures and dome-shaped tents with limited sources of drinking water, Vander Kamp said.
“We didn’t know we were going to get into a humanitarian aid situation,” Vander Kamp said.
Several suspects in charge of the operation have been identified, but their names were not disclosed by the sheriff’s office. A woman from Bend who supervised the workers and the property was arrested and released with a court summons, Vander Kamp said. Other local people are suspected and detectives expect to make further arrests.
Through the investigation, which began two years ago, detectives discovered that the illegal operation had diverted a significant amount of water from nearby homes and farms already struggling with drought conditions.
The illegal site used groundwater and maintained a complex watering system that supplied several 15,000 to 20,000 gallon tanks, said Vander Kamp.
“Due to the lack of resources and water, we didn’t expect to see growth of this size,” said Vander Kamp.
In addition, the site used pesticides and insecticides that threatened the residential water supply, and used a large amount of electricity for lights and fans.
– Kyle Spurr, The Bulletin