PORTLAND, Ore. – U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams has announced charges against six individuals for their roles in two vast conspiracies to traffic marijuana grown in Portland to Texas, Virginia and Florida.
According to a superseding indictment, Jody Tremayne Wafer, 29, Trent Lamar Knight, 30, and Brittany Lesanta Kizzee, 28, of Houston, Texas; and Raleigh Dragon Lau, 33, and Paul Eugene Thomas, 38, of Portland, are accused of conspiring to manufacture marijuana in Portland, and distributing it in Texas and Virginia.
Wafer, Knight and Kizzee had previously been charged with kidnapping and firearms offenses in December 2017. Thomas had previously been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in December 2017.
In a separate indictment, Cole William Griffiths, 30, of Hood River, Oregon, is accused of conspiring to manufacture marijuana in Hood River and shipping it to Florida.
Drug proceeds, in the form of bulk U.S. currency, were returned to Oregon via U.S. mail and passenger luggage on commercial airlines. Based on court documents, Federal authorities have seized approximately 11,000 marijuana plants, 546 pounds of processed marijuana, more than $2.8 million in cash, 51 firearms, 26 vehicles, trailers, and pieces of heavy equipment, and a yacht, and have alleged three houses used as marijuana grow sites are subject to forfeiture, all since August 2017.
“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” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “Dismantling criminal organizations is a key focus of our marijuana enforcement strategy. We will continue to work with our federal, state, local and tribal partners to disrupt overproduction and the illegal export of marijuana out-of-state.”
“DEA will continue to pursue all organized and dangerous interstate marijuana trafficking groups impacting the public’s safety,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis.
“Although the state of Oregon allows for marijuana cultivation and use within state borders, interstate trafficking and distribution remains illegal. IRS-Criminal Investigation will continue to vigorously investigate financial gains obtained through these activities, as we remain committed to the disruption and dismantling of black market marijuana operations,” said Darrell Waldon, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation’s Seattle Field Office.
“Through collaboration with our law enforcement partners, hard work and patience, HSI special agents are identifying the criminal organizations producing drugs in Oregon and illegally exporting them out-of-state—and holding them responsible for their illicit activities,” said Brad Bench, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in the Pacific Northwest. “One by one, we’ll seek you out, with our ultimate goal being to dismantle the entire criminal organization.”
“The convergence of guns, drugs and violence with illicit cash are a threat to our community,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “We are working aggressively with our law enforcement partners to address these threats.”
All six defendants are charged with conspiring to manufacture, possess with intent to distribute, and distribute marijuana, and to maintaining drug-involved premises. Other charges include manufacturing and distributing marijuana, money laundering, interfering with commerce by threats and violence, kidnapping, using a firearm during a crime of violence and drug trafficking crime, and felon in possession of a firearm.
Griffiths made an initial appearance in federal court on August 24, 2018 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You and pleaded not guilty. He was released pending trial. A four-day jury trial is scheduled for October 23, 2018 before U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez. The five remaining defendants are expected to make their first appearances at various times over the next three weeks.
As part of this same investigation, the U.S. has also filed a parallel civil complaint alleging that three pieces of real estate in Portland and Lake Oswego are subject to forfeiture because they were used to grow some of the marijuana related to these charges. The three properties are valued at a total of roughly $1.7 million.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This case was investigated by DEA, IRS-CI, HSI and the FBI.
This case was brought as part of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, the centerpiece of the department’s strategy for reducing the availability of drugs in the U.S. OCDETF was established in 1982 to mount a comprehensive attack on drug trafficking by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in coordination with state and local law enforcement.
Wafer-Knight-Kizzee-Lau-Thomas Superceding Indictment