OR Media Report: Clear connections between Klamath marijuana grows and Mexican cartels

Oregon”s Herald & News reports

Many of the illegal marijuana grows in Klamath County have been linked to national and international criminal organizations and the breadth of the problem has overwhelmed local law enforcement and justice systems and has begun to deplete county resources.

Two major marijuana busts in Klamath County just this month led to the seizure of more than $120 million worth of product had it made it to the illegal market. One bust was at a potato shed south of town while this week’s find was a warehouse in the middle of downtown Klamath Falls.

On Wednesday, Oct. 20 — a day after the warehouse bust — the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office pulled over three U-Haul trucks on Highway 66 near Keno. The trucks contained more than 17,600 pounds of mostly processed marijuana buds.

Sergeant Cliff Barden, of the Oregon State Police Basin Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (BINET), said illegal grows in Klamath County are clearly linked to drug cartels. He said the cartel’s strategy in the area is to overwhelm local agencies and resources with the sheer volume of production, ensuring that much of the operation will go unnoticed and ultimate generating immense profits.

“They are intentionally trying to overwhelm the system,” Barden said. “And that is why it is so difficult.”

Barden said BINET has been able to link many of the grows in the county to mid-level operations in California, which then are directly linked to drug cartels in Mexico. The California connections are several levels removed from the main operation but are coordinated out of Mexico, Barden said.

Barden said while there are some smaller non-cartel affiliated groups of “entrepreneurs trying to jump on board and join the green gold rush,” the vast majority of the illegal grows are coordinated by regional administrators in California linked to the cartels.

“If they are smaller grows — one to two greenhouses or less — that could be anything, generally just some little crew trying to make some money,” Barden said. “Almost all of the large grows — with dozens and dozens of greenhouses or even more, especially this year — have all been the exact same type of operations that are all coordinated from out of state, run by some mid-level person connected to Mexico.”

Barden said they believe mid-level administrators were sent into Klamath, Jackson and Josephine counties to make connections with local landowners. That representative sometimes bought, but more commonly leased, land from local property owners to set up illegal grow sites.

Eve Costello, the Klamath County District Attorney, said her office will be charging individuals involved in illegal marijuana operations. One potential charge could include money laundering, she said.

Read more at  https://www.heraldandnews.com/news/local_news/clear-connections-between-klamath-marijuana-grows-and-mexican-cartels/article_fdacb646-08a5-552c-a239-754f4dcc946c.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=MJD_20211028_NEWS_Daily

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