Law enforcement officials are wading through murky details of a multi-county raid on illegal marijuana growing operations Tuesday that involved millions of dollars in pot, search warrants at 50 locations, arrests of dozens of Chinese citizens and a scheme that included homes purchased for cash in typical residential neighborhoods and turned into mini marijuana factories.
Tuesday’s raids in Grays Harbor, Thurston and King counties netted $400,000 in cash and gold and more than 32,000 marijuana plants, said Steve Shumate, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Office’s Chief Criminal Deputy. Most of the grow locations were in Grays Harbor and the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office has taken the lead in a four-month investigation that has involved many state, local and federal agencies.
“A total of 50 search warrants were executed among the three counties. There were 44 arrests made, 26 vehicles confiscated, along with multiple guns and other items of value,” said Shumate. “There was over $400,000 worth of cash and gold seized. A total of 32,449 marijuana plants were confiscated. It was estimated that the value of these particular plants was in excess of $80,000,000.”
The value was assessed based on the quality of plants, said Shumate.
“Given the quality of the plants and believing what market it was heading to, it was believed that an average of $2,500 per plant was conservative,” he said. “That does not even include the value of all the processed marijuana that was confiscated.”
It is believed to have been destined for the East Coast, “where the black market is very lucrative,” said Shumate.
Of the 50 search warrants, 38 were in Grays Harbor County, eight in King County, and four in Thurston County.
The raids started Tuesday morning around 8:30 a.m.
Shumate said the term Chinese Nationals is being used by his office to mean citizens from China. “Some do have passports, however, some may be here illegally. We are still working on figuring that out.” As for tying the arrests to organized crime, Shumate clarified it’s “from the standpoint that what they were doing was illegal and obviously very organized. We will be working on how this all came to be. We still have a lot of follow-up to do.”