EPHRATA, Wash. – An organized, multi-agency response between Grant, Franklin, and Adams counties has resulted in over 41,000 pounds of illegal marijuana, 56 illegal firearms, ammunition, and many hazardous and banned chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers which cause damage to the environment and wildlife, in a series of warrants and 24 arrests spanning from early August of this year through the end of September.
The statistics across 36 Grant County Sheriff’s Office reports include:
- 27 search warrants;
- 24 arrests;
- 56 illegal guns and a tremendous amount of ammunition including magazines for automatic, semi-automatic and assault rifles;
- Over 41,000 pounds of marijuana in plant or packaged form;
- $55K in cash;
- Numerous vehicles, backhoes;
- And large quantities of hazardous chemicals including fertilizers and pesticides.
Coordinated by Grant County’s Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (INET), the crackdown uncovered and dismantled illegal grow operations in all areas of Grant County including Ephrata, George, Mattawa, Moses Lake, Quincy, Soap Lake, Schwana, Warden, and Wheeler. The campaign also included warrants in Othello, Adams County and Mesa in Franklin County.
“This highly-coordinated operation didn’t just dismantle illegal marijuana operations, it also removed the associated pervasive criminal element growing, guarding, and processing these large and unregulated grows,” Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said.
He continued, “These operators are often guarding their grows with illegal or stolen firearms, some of them fully automatic assault rifles and sub-machine guns, as well as using manufacturing processes involving hazardous quantities of chemicals that pose a genuine health and safety risk to the communities around them.”
The investigation also uncovered a tactic where illegal growers, posing as legal growers with appropriate-looking documentation that were in fact fake, were leasing land space from unsuspecting land-owners.
“It’s important for our landowners to understand that more due diligence is needed on their part,” Sheriff Jones said. “With the legalization of marijuana in Washington State, the former illegal grows hidden in the hills are now down in our communities, but with no less criminal intent.”
Partnering in this effort were:
- Washington State Patrol Marijuana Eradication Team (ERAD)
- Moses Lake Police Department Tactical Response Team (TRT)
- Ephrata Police Department
- Soap Lake Police Department
- Adams Co. Sheriff’s Office
- Tri-Cities Regional SWAT
- Franklin Co. Sheriff’s Office
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- U.S. Army 10th Civil Support Unit
- Washington State Department of Ecology
- Anonymous tipsters to the CRIME TIPS line
Sheriff Jones said, “Our sincerest gratitude to our partnering agencies for their professionalism, commitment, and integrity throughout this complex operation, as well as those citizens in our community reporting suspicious activity. Together it’s working.”
(By Steve Hair, courtesy of ncwlife.com, edited by Christine Eagar)