July 14, 2011
Contact: Public Information Officer
Phone Number: (206) 553-5443
Yakima Valley Vineyard Investigation Results In Federal Arrests And Over $3 Million In Assets Subject To Forfeiture
YAKIMA , WASH. -- - The Drug Enforcement (DEA), Law Enforcement Against Drugs Task (LEAD), and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington announce the culmination of “Operation Green Jam”. The three-year investigation targeted a drug trafficking organization who concealed marijuana grow operations within Yakima Valley vineyards.
In the early morning hours of July 14, 2011, federal agents and state and local officers executed seven federal search warrants and arrested 19 suspects in Yakima County, Washington; Grants Pass, Oregon ; Union City, California ; Manteca, California and Los Angeles, California.
Sixteen of those arrested were charged by a federal grand jury on June 14, 2011, for conspiracy violations involving the manufacture and distribution of marijuana, aiding and abetting, money laundering and structuring financial transactions, in violation of money laundering and controlled substances statutes.
According to the indictment, members of the conspiracy purchased and leased or assisted in the purchase and leasing of grape vineyards in the Yakima County area since at least 2004, under the auspices of conducting farming operations. Proceeds from the sale of the marijuana were utilized to purchase and finance the operations of additional vineyards for the manufacture and distribution of marijuana. The United States Government filed a money judgment against the defendants in the amount of $3,462,988.00, which are drug proceeds. Additionally, forfeiture allegations for several properties have been filed, which include vineyards.
“The success of this investigation is credited to all participating agencies who played a crucial role in the eradication of this drug trafficking organization,” said Mark Thomas, DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge.
“The diligence of the LEAD Task Force in cooperation with DEA truly made this operation a success,” said Sergeant Al Escalera, LEAD Task Force Supervisor.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Law Enforcement Against Drugs Task Force. These following agencies provided substantial assistance in the investigation: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Marshals Service, Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force, Violent Crimes Task Force, Washington Army National Guard Counterdrug Unit, Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, Benton County Sheriff’s Office, Grandview Police Department, Sunnyside Police Department, Prosser Police Department, Pasco Police Department, Washington State Patrol, and the Yakima Police Department.