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Thursday, July 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Undercover police arrest 38 suspected drug dealers at Paradiso Festival in central Washington

UPDATED: Tue., June 18, 2019, 8:53 p.m.

Authorities arrested 38 suspected drug dealers on a total of 97 felony charges over the weekend at the Paradiso Festival in central Washington.

Kyle Foreman, a spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, said undercover investigators seized LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, cocaine, steroids, ketamine, the party drug known as molly, thousands of dollars in cash and one handgun.

All the drugs were found in amounts that warranted charges related to dealing, not just simple possession charges, Foreman said.

Grant County detectives worked with investigators from the Washington State Patrol, the Columbia River Drug Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, the Moses Lake and Yakima police departments, and the Yakima and Adams county sheriff’s offices.

Foreman estimated there were 20 to 25 investigators working at the electronic dance music festival, which took place Friday and Saturday at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George. They were “all dressed as concertgoers” and operated mostly in the campground area, he said.

“We started inviting other agencies the past couple years, but this was the largest amount of detectives that I’ve seen working at Paradiso,” he said. “It was a huge operation.”

Foreman said Live Nation, which hosts Paradiso, cooperates with drug investigations.

In past years, dozens of Paradiso attendees have fallen sick from drug intoxication, dehydration and heat exhaustion.

In 2013, a 21-year-old Washington State University student died at Paradiso as result of dehydration and methamphetamine intoxication.

In 2015, a 22-year-old Portland man died the morning after the festival ended. His death was ruled accidental and related to the psychedelic drug ecstasy. A Canadian man, also 22, died a week later after falling ill at the festival.

In 2016, authorities reported fewer people were rushed to hospitals from the festival, attributing the drop to cooler weather and a greater law enforcement presence.

Last year, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office reported that authorities arrested 30 people at the festival and seized 2,000 tabs of molly, a drug related to ecstasy that often contains a mixture of other drugs, chemicals and filler substances such as sugar and baking soda.

Foreman said this year’s event had a large emergency tent, and authorities didn’t keep track of how many people sought medical attention there.

Before and during the event, the sheriff’s office cautioned attendees on social media.

“Had lots of people sick from drugs and dehydration yesterday,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post Saturday. “It’s going to be hot today, be sure to drink plenty of water and limit your drug intake.”

Foreman credited the undercover cops who seized drugs at Paradiso.

“We’d like to think that we maybe saved someone’s life by them not ingesting one of those products,” he said. “But it’s hard to quantify something that didn’t happen.”

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