High-quality marijuana plants worth more than $127 million were seized during the past two weeks in eight Chelan County locations, police reported Thursday.
Helicopters used to spot growing operations in the forest have netted 84,873 plants so far, Chelan County sheriff’s Lt. Jerry Moore said. Chelan County deputies and agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Columbia River Drug Task Force and Washington State Patrol will continue the eradication effort through October.
Moore said these are sophisticated grow sites, with precise irrigation systems and keepers who carefully tend their contraband crops.
“More than likely it’s one group that is rotating in and out of each one of these grows, because they all have camps, they all have bed areas, they all have cooking areas, and they usually have firearms,” Moore said. “There’s strong evidence that they’ll go from one camp to the next.”
Such sites point to a Mexican cartel, Moore said, which hides growing sites within a few miles of Highway 97 through Washington and Oregon and all the way down to Mexico. He said the 20,000-plant seizure on Tuesday near Lake Wenatchee was on land owned by Longview Fibre and Packaging Inc., but 99 percent of growing sites are on public land.
The mature plants, 5 to 6 feet tall and worth $1,500 apiece, are sent to the waste management site in East Wenatchee and kept under supervision until buried with other garbage, Moore said. A few are kept as evidence.
No arrests have been made, but investigators collected evidence at the scene. After locating a crop from the sky, they set up surveillance for a week to locate the people and vehicles involved.
“We have some leads, and we’re following up on the leads,” Moore said.
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