Federal authorities seize about 5,000 plants from outdoor marijuana grow south of Ashland

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MEDFORD, Oregon — Authorities busted an outdoor marijuana growing operation of roughly 5,000 plants in the Neil Creek drainage area, south of Ashland, The Medford Mail Tribune reported Sunday.

A U.S. Forest Service employee discovered the massive growing operation while hunting in January, which sparked an investigation that included surveillance, the newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/YnZKyL).

According to a complaint filed Aug. 25 in the U.S. District Court of Medford, Forest Service Special Agent Robert D. Caruthers Jr. said the operation site appeared to be a "Mexican-style Drug Trade Organization grow."

Authorities arrested two men from Mexico who were tending the growing operation. The men were illegally in the country. A Jackson County Sheriff's department SWAT team raided the site in mid-August.

According to court documents, investigators found a marijuana drying area, a well-developed campsite, several terraced areas with plant holes, drip irrigation lines, open fertilizer bags and a garbage pit. They also recovered dried marijuana plants with attached buds.

From May until the August raid, Caruthers and county authorities kept tabs on the site, observing as people moved in and its plants grew and matured to about 5 feet tall, the complaint states. Both men have been charged with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana.

Caruthers said he saw who he believes was Salgado-Salgado and Lopez-Moroyoqui dressed in camouflage tending to plants at the grow site, documents said.

"They had been given marijuana seeds in a bag and were initially walked into the grow site location," the complaint states.

Salgado-Salgado told Caruthers the men were expecting to get about a third of the value of the harvested marijuana, documents said.

Charging documents say the site is believed to have been in use since at least 2012.

The men are scheduled to be arraigned next week in U.S. District Court in Medford.


Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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