HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) — A yearlong investigation into a methamphetamine trafficking operation and cockfighting ring culminated with the arrests of 30 people after a multi-agency effort that included searches of 18 different locations.
The meth operation was based in Washington County, said Sgt. Bob Ray with the sheriff’s office. Investigators believe the meth came in from Mexico and distributed throughout the entire 5-county metropolitan area.
The searches included both residential and commercial properties, with most of the searches being done Thursday. Two were done on Friday and the first 4 were done at a recent previous time.
Ray told KOIN 6 News the ring was operating “pretty much everywhere around the Portland metro area. We believe the central part of their operations was in Washington County before we shut them down.”
The operation impacted the neighborhoods, he said. “When the criminal element comes in, crimes begin to happen, whether they’re thefts, burglaries, assaults.”
The meth was being produced in “Mexican super labs,” Ray said, then shipped to the area and distributed. The 26 pounds of meth confiscated has a street value of more than $1 million.
Ray noted there are “countless cases of people that will steal from their immediate family members. They’ll steal from their grandparents, they’ll sell heirlooms, whatever they can do to be able to get the money and buy the drugs.”
The federal indictment
The official federal indictment lists 24 people — with nicknames like Chupas, Teddy Bear, Gordo, The Russian, Hazy, The Duck — who “willfully combine, conspire, confederate, and agree” to manufacture and distributed meth and use various communication devices in the conspiracy.
They’re also accused of money laundering and organizing the cockfighting ring.
Some of the defendants used “their associations with criminal organizations and gangs based in Mexico, Texas and California, including individuals associated with a drug cartel in the Mexican state of Michoacan, obtained methamphetamine for purposes of further distribution within the United States, including within the District of Oregon.”
More than 1600 chickens were found at a property in the 21400 block of SW Farmington Road, investigators said, and most of those chickens were used in cockfighting.
He said the cockfighting operation was “extremely large” and the fights would take place at that location. Ray said the conditions were “very cruel,” and it is unclear what will happen with the chickens.
“The Oregon Humane Society is very instrumental in working with us to work through this issue.”
“A vast amount” of stolen items were found in the searches, and authorities seized more than 26 pounds of meth, 19 firearms, cocaine, about $90,000 in cash and a $3,000 bicycle.
A total of 66 people were investigated and 30 were arrested, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.
Washington County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Bob Ray said the searches and arrests are “the culmination of a lengthy investigation.” He also described the “prolonged” case as “very extensive.” Ray also said more arrests in this case are possible.
Jon Schaolhoren lives in the area of Southeast 58th where one of the searches took place. He told KOIN 6 News he was not surprised.
“Our neighbors have always had a lot of traffic and we noticed just in the last week or so it’s sort of become greater,” he said. “It’s always been a house where there’s been suspicious activity.”
He was awakened when he heard a loud bang and saw police outside “very heavily outfitted, armor and full tactical gear.”
“I looked out the front door and there were 2 cops with large rifles standing right on our front porch,” he said.
Nathan Hitz, 26, lives near another search location on Unger Road and 313th in Cornelius. He said he is also glad “it’s out of the neighborhood because I don’t really want those hard drugs around here.”
He told KOIN 6 News the activity was “just tearing down the community…not good for anybody, really.”
Washington County Sheriff’s Office Westside Interagency Narcotics Team and the Drug Enforcement Administration are the lead investigators.
KOIN 6 News saw officials from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, DEA, FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, Portland Police Bureau, Gresham Police, Hillsboro Police, Beaverton Police, Tigard Police, Tualitan Police, Salem Police, Vancouver Police, Oregon Humane Society Animal Investigations Unit, United States Attorney’s Office, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office involved in the searches.
The Department of Human Services was also involved over concerns about children in hazardous environments.
KOIN 6 News reporter Brent Weisberg contributed to this report.