The Deschutes County Illegal Marijuana Enforcement team and Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) dismantled two illegal marijuana grow sites in Bend Wednesday, seizing more than 6,000 plants with a street value of $3.5 million. The seizures marked the conclusion of an 18-month investigation into the illicit operation.
Four people were arrested and one person of interest was still at large as of Thursday morning.
CODE said community complaints led to an investigation at locations on Nelson Road near Bend Municipal Airport. The probe led to a second site on Half Mile Lane in the Tumalo area.
After months of investigation and surveillance of the sites, authorities raided properties at 22610 Nelson Road and 64935 Half Mile Lane Wednesday morning. Authorities seized 6,868 marijuana plants.
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Additionally, law enforcement said most of the Mexican nationals who were working the grow sites were trafficked into the U.S., paid $20 per day and lived in squalor. Among the alleged living conditions were an outdoor toilet and a “primitive” kitchen.
CODE said the Nelson Road site “alternated between underground well water and diverted irrigation canal water while maintaining a complex watering system that supplied marijuana production.”
Four people were arrested and charged with the Unlawful Manufacturing of Marijuana:
- Darin Joseph Niemeyer, age 62, of Bend
- Jose Andres Mendoza-Lizarda, age 40, of Pasco, Washington
- Felipe Chavez-Arreguin, age 25 of Michoacan, Mexico
- Jose Cuevas-Garcia, age 46 of Michoacan, Mexico
Cuevas-Garcia was also charged with Interfering with a Law Enforcement Animal. CODE said a Bend Police K-9 “Kim” found him hiding in a closet. Cuevas-Garcia is accused of injuring the K-9’s snout while fighting with her.
A person of interest, 31-year-old Luis Vaca-Rodriguez, was still at large as of Wednesday night.