Eight months after agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration secretly raided a Portland storage unit and took nearly 500 pounds of marijuana, leading to an innocent bystander being held at gunpoint allegedly by the owners of the pot, new indictments have been issued in the drug-trafficking case.
Jody Tremayne Wafer, 29, and Trent Lamar Knight, the two men already accused of kidnapping at gunpoint the manager of a Public Storage warehouse whom they suspected of stealing their drug stash on Dec. 2, and their alleged getaway driver, Brittany Lesanta Kizzee, 28, have now been indicted on charges of manufacturing marijuana in Portland and distributing it to Texas and Virginia. Two additional men — Raleigh Dragon Lau, 33, and Paul Eugene Thomas, 38, of Portland — have also been linked to the alleged conspiracy.
In separate cases announced Wednesday, a Hood River man, Cole William Griffiths, 30, is accused of shipping pot to Florida that was cultivated and stored in homes, trailers and sheds in Hood River. Griffiths, a felon, was found with 14 firearms, according to an indictment.
Prosecutors also have moved to seize through civil forfeiture one property in Lake Oswego and two in Portland that they say were used to grow some of the marijuana sold by defendants out of state. None of those charged were licensed by the state to grow marijuana.
Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams said the prosecutions and civil forfeiture action represent his office’s aim to disrupt “overproduction and the illegal export of marijuana out-of-state.”
“These cases provide clear evidence of what I have repeatedly raised concerns over: Oregon’s marijuana industry is attracting organized criminal networks looking to capitalize on the state’s relaxed regulatory environment,” Williams saids. “Dismantling criminal organizations is a key focus of our marijuana enforcement strategy.”
During the marijuana-trafficking investigations, federal agents have seized about 11,000 marijuana plants, 546 pounds of processed marijuana, more than $2.8 million in cash, 51 firearms, 26 vehicles, a yacht, trailers, and heavy equipment.
Federal authorities allege that three homes were used as marijuana grow sites – 19 Monticello Drive in Lake Oswego, a duplex at 5635/5639 S.E. 84th Avenue and a residence at 3826 S.E. 50th Ave. in Portland — are subject to civil forfeiture. The owners of the properties, as of Wednesday, had not been charged in the federal drug-trafficking cases.
According to court documents, Lake Oswego police in June 2017 alerted the DEA of a suspected large-scale marijuana grow operation at the Monticello Drive location.
Federal drug enforcement agents, working with the FBI, Port of Portland police, and the Department of Homeland Security and Internal Revenue Service investigated and soon identified other large- scale indoor marijuana grow locations as well used to cultivate pot that was being sold out of state.
At the Portland home on Southeast 50th Avenue, for example, surveillance revealed people visiting the property late at night driving luxury vehicles, and others arriving with U-Haul trucks, according to a federal affidavit.
In the case involving the federal seizure of drugs from a public storage unit, agents had been tracking the movements of Wafer, Knight and Kizzee for months through GPS traces of their phones and cars.
Last August, investigators at Portland International Airport had found $184,740 in cash concealed in a shoebox in a passenger’s checked luggage, said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Narus. Agents discovered that the money was tied to a man and a woman suspected of buying large supplies of marijuana in Oregon and smuggling the bundles back to Texas for distribution, Narus said.
Investigators identified Wafer, of Houston, as the one who coordinated buying the drugs in Oregon for transport back to Texas, records indicate. DEA agents tracked Wafer, Knight and Kizzee using undercover surveillance before, during and after they were seen going to the Public Storage warehouse on Dec. 2, where Wafer and Knight are accused of confronting the manager. They tied him up and shoved guns to his face, suspecting he had stolen their stash of marijuana kept in one of the rented units, Narus said.
It was actually DEA agents who had stolen the marijuana days earlier under what’s called a “sneak and peak” or “delayed warrant. They made their confiscation look like a burglary, and didn’t tell anybody they had broken into the unit, hoping it would provoke the suspects into revealing their drug suppliers or other connections on wiretapped phones.