On Tuesday, June 14th, 2022, Detectives with the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Deschutes County Illegal Marijuana Enforcement team, and Unites States Homeland Security Investigations concluded a two-year investigation involving an international drug organization that is alleged to be growing and processing illicit marijuana from Madras and Culver, Oregon before delivering it to Portland for nationwide distribution.
This case began with community complaints, and tips about several of the organization’s twenty grow locations in the Jefferson County area. As a result, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Detectives began investigating and discovered a complex criminal network that required investigative assistance.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Detectives requested the assistance of the Central Oregon Drug Team and the Deschutes County Illicit Marijuana Enforcement Team to further their investigation. Over the next 18 months, CODE and DCIME detectives, special agents, and intelligence analysts conducted hundreds of hours of physical and electronic surveillance on over twenty-three members of the organization, twenty properties, bank accounts, and Chinese-food restaurants around the pacific northwest and Asia.
With the assistance of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, US Customs and Border Patrol, US Department of Homeland Security, CODE, and DCIME, Detectives determined the organizational structure and identified the leadership. It was discovered that proceeds from the marijuana sales were often laundrered through Chinese restaurants and businesses before being diverted back to China disguised as an international business transaction.
Robert Joseph Dale, age 64, of Madras, Oregon, is alleged to be one of the leaders in this criminal organization. The illicit grow site properties are owned mainly by Robert Joseph Dale or with his family members or a business entity owned and controlled by Mr. Dale. Additionally, a few other property owners have been identified as members of the organization and are still outstanding at his time.
Most of the fourteen Chinese laborers contacted by detectives were trafficked into the United States through Mexico and found work in restaurants throughout Oregon and Washington. Later, this cartel organization recruited restaurant laborers to work in the illegal marijuana trade for salary. The laborers were found living at the grow sites and often were moved by the cartel from grow site to grow site.
CODE and DCIME detectives, with the assistance of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, the Central Oregon Emergency Response Team (CERT), and the Southern Oregon OSP Marijuana Team executed six Search Warrants at:
- 885 SW Ford Lane, Culver, OR
- 141 SW Dover Lane, Madras, OR
- 1932 SW Bear Drive, Madras, OR
- 8781 SW Feather Drive, Culver, OR
- 1735 NE Hilltop, Madras, OR
- 1703 NE Hilltop, Madras, OR
During the search warrant, fifteen people were detained, and 16,240 lbs of processed marijuana, 17,704 plants, 4 firearms, and a large US currency cache were seized as evidence.
Ten laborers were detained, identified, interviewed, and later released by Detectives. The laborers will not be identified as time.
Five people were arrested at the scene and later lodged at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Jail. The following people have been charged with the Unlawful Manufacturing, Delivery and Possession of Marijuana. In addition to the above charges, Robert Dale was also charged with the Unlawful Possession of a Firearm.
- Robert Joseph Dale, age 64, of Madras, Oregon
- Dong Hai Zhu, age 51, of Beaverton, Oregon
- Sky Hong He Su, age 39, of Portland, Oregon
- Wenjian Yan, age 36, of Brooklyn, New York
- Sam Chen, age 45, of Madras, Oregon
Several additional suspects, both foreign and domestic, have been identified. Detectives expect additional arrests are forthcoming once additional follow-up investigations are complete.
CODE and DCIME dismantled the largest, more active grow sites operated by this organization. Investigators know the remaining locations and will dismantle these sites soon.
The possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal for recreational use in Oregon. However, large, unlicensed marijuana operations remain illegal. Due to these operations being unregulated, pose dangers to the public and the environment.
The Culver and Madras community and surrounding areas in Jefferson County have been struggling with severe drought conditions. Since the beginning of CODE and DCIME, investigators have found illegal marijuana grows diverted or stolen significant water from nearby homes, commercial farms, or directly from pumps connected to underground sources in the arid central Oregon high desert. These growing sites used underground water and assigned water rights while maintaining a complex watering system that supplied over 17,000 plants.
Additionally, Illegal marijuana farms, including this one, often use pesticides and insecticides that threaten residential water supplies and endanger the end user.
Illegal marijuana grows facilities have a very high electrical demand due to the lights, fans, and other equipment used. Many of these grow sites used jerry-rigged copper wire, extension cords, and power strips secured with zip ties as permanent exterior wiring for processing equipment, lighting, fans, etc. Overloaded electrical wiring has caused fires in other marijuana to grow facilities. The Jefferson County building compliance staff also examined these properties for building code violations.
CODE and DCIME were assisted at the scene by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Crook County Sheriff’s Office, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, US Homeland Security, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration with the investigation, eradication, and dismantling of these sites.
Source: Central Oregon Drug Enforcement