Law enforcement officers conducted a synchronized raid on five properties in Bend and La Pine, busting a massive illegal marijuana operation that is believed to be responsible for distributing drugs throughout the Midwest and eastern parts of the country.
"Several people" were detained and interviewed during property searches conducted by officers, but no arrests were made on Tuesday, as stated in a press release by the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities discovered significant amounts of marijuana and cash during the search of the properties. They uncovered environmental violations, such as a seeping septic system, as well as other hazards. There was evidence of drug trafficking and financial crimes found at the properties also.
Police are on the lookout for two individuals deemed as "people of interest" in the ongoing investigation. The two men are believed to be brothers and have been identified as Daniel Liautaud, 36, from Bend, and Jackson Liautaud, 31, from La Pine.
The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office is still actively investigating a case and waiting to make additional arrests. Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp stated that they are gathering evidence and preparing to present their findings to a grand jury for possible indictments.
In the series of raids, authorities have confiscated an impressive amount of marijuana. A total of 665 pounds of processed marijuana flower and 630 plants have been taken as evidence from the targeted properties. Notably, it's been reported that even just one pound of marijuana can be sold for around $1,000 or more in certain areas along the east coast.
In Oregon, growing more than 12 marijuana plants illegally is considered a felony, according to Andrew Doyle, a deputy district attorney from the Deschutes County District Attorney's Office.
According to Doyle, who deals with cases investigated by the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team, 600 pounds is definitely not a feasible amount to claim is for personal use.
Authorities are currently conducting an investigation on a large-scale marijuana bust, according to Doyle. Although there is currently no evidence linking the operation to an illegal drug cartel, the investigation is ongoing. This type of operation, consisting of multiple interlinked properties, is not a common occurrence. Larger regional marijuana busts have occurred, but this investigation is noteworthy in its scale and complexity.
The illegal marijuana grow operation on Berg Lane in Bend caught the attention of the police after receiving complaints and tips from the locals in the area, which led to the start of the investigation.
After months of targeted surveillance, a SWAT team and two drug teams from regional law enforcement simultaneously searched multiple properties. The operation took place at 7 a.m. Tuesday on locations situated on Northwest Newport Avenue and Berg Lane in Bend, as well as Dyke Road and Polar Drive in La Pine.
A Deschutes County building code official discovered multiple violations during an investigation, including hazardous electrical wiring, unapproved electrical panels, exposed wires, and unauthorized interior structures.
Police conducting a search on Berg Lane in Bend uncovered more than they anticipated - a septic system that was in dire need of repair and causing the property to be flooded with sewage. The authorities had to trudge through the unsanitary mess during their investigation.
Vander Kamp stated, "It was a big sloppy mess," and went on to say, "It had been leaking for a long time."
According to Vander Kamp, this kind of leak can pollute both waterways and wells, putting individuals at risk for illness. Furthermore, utilizing contaminated water to grow and distribute marijuana poses serious health hazards. Vander Kamp warns that these types of sewage leaks can result in legal ramifications.
The investigation is still ongoing and police continue to search for the pair believed to be behind the operation.