4 Thurston County sites among those hit in raid netting $80 million in pot plants

Staff report

Cash and gold seized in Tuesday’s raids.
Cash and gold seized in Tuesday’s raids. Courtesy photo

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office provided additional details Wednesday about Tuesday’s raids of dozens of suspected illegal marijuana growing operations in Thurston, Grays Harbor, and King counties run by Chinese nationals believed to be part of organized crime.

Steve Shumate, Grays Harbor’s Chief Criminal Deputy, posted on the department’s Facebook page, providing the details including the locations of many of the busts. Among the locations: multiple sites on 10th Court Southeast in Olympia, and Laynard Drive Northeast in Lacey.

At about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force oversaw the operation that resulted in numerous search warrants being conducted throughout Grays Harbor County, as well as in Thurston and King counties.

Shumate wrote that 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. More than $400,000 worth of cash and gold was seized. A total of 32,449 marijuana plants were confiscated. Law enforcement estimated the value of the plants in excess of $80 million.

Of the 50 search warrants, 38 were in Grays Harbor County, eight in King County, and four in Thurston County. Shumate said in some cases, there were multiple search warrants on the same streets.

​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 were funding other criminal enterprises.

The marijuana grow operations were 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.