A Prineville couple suspected of running an illegal marijuana grow operation, illegally selling products and running a money laundering scheme were arrested this week. Officials said the operation allegedly also used underground well water, potentially affecting the water supply of neighbors.
Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) said detectives executed multiple search warrants Wednesday on the couple’s home, a commercial indoor growing facility and the couple’s retail store. Detectives allegedly found nearly 1,900 marijuana plants, 168 pounds of processed marijuana and more than $20,000 in cash. Three rifles and two handguns were also found.
“Detectives also discovered a complex money laundering scheme involving real estate and structured banking transactions,” CODE said in a press release.
CODE alleges the couple sold marijuana products from “Herbology,” a store in Prineville that is not licensed to grow or sell cannabis. Additionally, the couple allegedly sold marijuana products on the black market outside Oregon.
The couple was booked into the Crook County Jail on charges of unlawful marijuana delivery, manufacturing and possession. The husband was also held on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. More charges are expected, CODE said.
Officials also said the grow site, located in a residential area of Juniper Canyon, used underground well water and had what they described as a complex watering system for producing marijuana. Most residents in that area rely on ground or well water for their homes, CODE said. It noted that Gov. Kate Brown recently declared Crook County to be in extreme drought conditions and that consistent groundwater sources are an issue.
“Investigators have found illegal marijuana grows diverted or stolen significant water from nearby homes, commercial farms, or directly from pumps connected to underground sources in the arid central Oregon high desert,” CODE said.
Beyond that, officials say illegal marijuana farms can often used pesticides or insecticides. Those can taint residential water supplies, leading to potential health risks.
The Crook County Sheriff’s Office, Prineville Police Department, Oregon State Police also assisted in taking down the operation, CODE said.