Marijuana Cultivation Ring Dismantled
Seattle, Washington – Today, Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge, Seattle Field Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Chief Steve Strachan, Kent Police Department, Chief Jim Kelly, Auburn Police Department, Chief David Haynes, Tukwila Police Department and Chief Kevin Milosevich, Renton Police Department, announced the culmination of a one year investigation into a Vietnamese marijuana cultivation organization which purchased residences throughout the south Puget Sound region and constructed elaborate indoor cultivation sites on the premises. On October 18th, agents and officers served 12 state search warrants on suspected marijuana grow locations, which resulted in the arrest of twenty individuals and the seizure of eleven grow operations, more than 4,000 live marijuana plants, and approximately $25,000 in United States currency.
“This enforcement operation targeted an organization in south King County, which was determined to manufacture large quantities of marijuana for profit” said Special Agent in Charge Rodney G. Benson of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Seattle Field Division. “Their endeavors pushed marijuana into our communities while creating significant hazards and public safety issues for the community.”
Each of the indoor grows were similar in nature with each illegal operation constructed inside a split-level or two-level residence with the upstairs used for living and the entire lower level/basement utilized for the cultivation of marijuana. In the lower level, agents and officers found custom lighting systems, water irrigation, ventilation and commercial air filtration apparatuses that utilized charcoal filters to mask the odor of the growing marijuana. The electricity to each home had been rewired to bypass the electrical meter, saving the organization thousands of dollars in electrical bills each month, but creating a significant fire hazard.
This investigation was started by the Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team (VNET) comprised of officers from the Auburn Police Department, Kent Police Department, Tukwila Police Department and Renton Police Department. In September of this year, VNET partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration and became a major component of the Puget Sound Regional HIDTA Task Force, which will operate in south King County. The King County Sheriff’s Office, the Port of Seattle and the Washington State Patrol also provided significant assistance in the seizure of these marijuana grow operations.
Kent Police Chief Steve Strachan stated that, "this is an excellent example of local and federal jurisdictions working together to bring a large investigation to a successful conclusion."
“The professional investigative efforts and actions of the members of this task force will negatively impact the marijuana growers associated with this illegal criminal enterprise,” said Auburn Police Chief Jim Kelly. “It is through this type of cooperation between the law enforcement agencies involved that success is realized. This makes our communities safer.”
The case is being prosecuted by the King County Prosecutors Office and the defendants will be charged with manufacture of marijuana. Every Defendant Is Presumed Innocent Until and Unless Proven Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.