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Huge marijuana operation busted

A large illegal marijuana grow operation was busted in multiple locations throughout Washington County and Portland on Thursday.

Raids were conducted at 15 residences by detectives with the Westside Interagency Narcotics and additional law enforcement agencies.

According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, warrants were served on 15 residences in the metro area. Multiple large illegal marijuana growing operations were seized, along with cash and packaged drugs that were ready for shipment.

According to the sheriff's office, detectives received information in December 2012 about a group of people reportedly growing large amounts of marijuana, shipping it to various states, and laundering the cash proceeds.

Detectives began investigating the case and believed they were dealing with an organized crime operation. Thirty-five people identified as participating in the illegal drug trafficking activity.

Investigators learned that the organization was turning houses into large growing operations. These houses were located in neighborhoods, mostly in Washington County, with two in Portland.

Some of the houses were owned and some of them were rented by unsuspecting landlords. The houses would be converted to accommodate the extra electricity, ventilation, and water needed for growing the marijuana. Some rental homes would sustain thousands of dollars in damage caused by the illegal drug operation, the sheriff's office says.

Investigators discovered the organization was packaging and shipping over 50 pounds of marijuana with a value of more than $100,000 a month. Some of the shipments were sent to states where marijuana is illegal on the state level.

Investigators believe the organization was operating out of Oregon so the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) could be manipulated and exploited to traffic drugs for financial gain. The organization would register some of these residences as OMMP grow sites to appear they were in compliance with OMMP, but would actually have as much as 10 times the legal number of plants.

According to the sheriff's office, these converted homes have increased safety and neighborhood livability issues due to illegal wiring and the heat produced from the lighting equipment. For example, on Sept. 2, 2013, one of the growing houses located in Aloha caught fire from apparent electrical issues associated with illegal wiring for the grow lights, creating an unsafe situation for fire and law enforcement as well as the neighboring houses.

During the warrant services on Thursday morning, WIN detectives were assisted by Oregon Department Of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Portland Police Bureau, Beaverton Police Department, Hillsboro Police Department, Oregon National Guard, Homeland Security Investigations, US Marshals Service, and the FBI.

Investigators seized for forfeiture 11 houses, five vehicles, over 2,600 Marijuana plants, 34 pounds of dried marijuana, 12 firearms, and over $80,000 cash. More seizures are expected as the investigation continues and additional evidence is gathered.

No arrests were made, although the case is being forwarded to the Washington County Grand Jury for charging decisions.