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Hundreds of workers released after raid on illegal marijuana grow near Kerby

A Josephine County Sheriff's Office vehicle blocks a bridge over the Illinois River along Finch Road west of Kerby (photo by Mike Zacchino).

More than a dozen local, state, and federal agencies or task forces participated in the pre-dawn raid on Tuesday, serving search warrants at Q-Bar-X Ranch near Kerby.

Posted: Aug 18, 2021 5:39 PM
Updated: Aug 27, 2021 12:18 PM

KERBY, Ore. — A multi-agency raid on a major illegal marijuana grow near Kerby on Tuesday has wrapped up without statements that would substantiate suspected human rights violations, the Josephine County Sheriff's Office said in an update Wednesday.

According to the update, investigators interviewed 200 workers at the Q Bar X Ranch near Kerby after serving the search warrants. Sheriff Dave Daniel mentioned in a Tuesday press conference that though law enforcement officers believed there were elements of human trafficking or forced labor at the site, the workers might not be willing to speak about it to investigators.

Daniel's suspicion was borne out in the resulting interviews, the Josephine County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.

"As expected, the workers relayed no concerns of humanitarian violations. According to the Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, this is a common occurrence," the Sheriff's Office said. "The workers may be in fear of retaliation to themselves or family members, not being paid, and immigration status concerns among others."

The detained workers were allowed to either leave the property or stay of their "own free will," the agency said.

After a full search of the property, investigators said that they destroyed 72,283 marijuana plants, 6,000 pounds of processed marijuana, and 373 green houses. They also seized 10 guns and about $140,000 in cash.

During Tuesday's press conference, Sheriff Daniel said that the investigation got rolling about two weeks ago, when a Hispanic man was dropped off at the Caves Chevron. The man was "very near death," and he passed away while being taken to the hospital.

After getting an idea of the size of the grow and suspecting humanitarian violations along with illegal marijuana cultivation, the Sheriff's Office put out a call for help from other agencies throughout the state. In addition to federal authorities, agencies involved in the raid included some as distant as Deschutes County and Eugene.

Roughly 250 law enforcement officers, including 10 SWAT teams, joined in the pre-dawn raid on Tuesday. Homeland Security Investigations provided interpreters to aid in the investigation.

Sheriff Daniel said Tuesday that he anticipated that four arrests could result from the raid, with the goal of charging the "masterminds" of the grow. The update on Wednesday indicated that no arrests had yet been made, but the investigation is ongoing and the property may be made subject to civil forfeiture of a criminal operation.

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