Several suspected illegal marijuana growing operations in Thurston, Grays Harbor, and King counties run by Chinese nationals suspected of being part of organized crime were raided Tuesday morning, according to the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office, which is the lead agency in the large-scale operation involving local, state and federal agencies.
At about 8:30 a.m., several search warrants were served in the three counties.
Law enforcement teams were processing the scenes on Tuesday and removing and destroying any illegal marijuana. The Sheriff’s Office said that on Wednesday it would provide information about arrests made and the quantities of illegal marijuana located.
The investigation originated earlier this year when east Grays Harbor County citizens reported to the Sheriff’s Office possible illegal pot grows near Elma. Later, McCleary Police received similar complaints.
Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Deputies as well as officers with the McCleary Police Department identified several possible locations where the grow operations appeared to be occurring. On Aug. 1, the Grays Harbor Drug Task Force took over the investigations.
Over the past four months, the task force developed information that numerous homes were being purchased for the purpose of setting up illegal marijuana grows. The majority of the homes were purchased with cash by Chinese nationals. Investigators believe the proceeds from the grows are funding other criminal enterprises, the Sheriff’s Office said. Those investigations are on-going.
A Sheriff’s Office statement says the search warrants were on marijuana grow operations that not only operated without the proper licenses, but in some cases, the illegal grow operations were set up in restricted areas such as near schools.