Eastern Washington, with its dry climate and sun-soaked rolling fields, is ideal for growing wine grapes, and, apparently, marijuana. The DEA announced today that it had arrested 19 suspects who a grand jury says were part of a multistate pot-distribution ring based among the verdant vineyards of Yakima wine country.
Besides Yakima County, raids were apparently carried out in Grants Pass, Ore.; Union City, Calif.; Manteca, Calif., and Los Angeles.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice tells Seattle Weekly that the suspects are not thought to be connected to any Mexican drug cartels.
From the DEA:
According to the indictment, members of the conspiracy purchased and leased or assisted in the purchase and leasing of grape vineyards in the Yakima County area since at least 2004, under the auspices of conducting farming operations. Proceeds from the sale of the marijuana were utilized to purchase and finance the operations of additional vineyards for the manufacture and distribution of marijuana. The United States Government filed a money judgment against the defendants in the sum of $3,462,988.00, which are drug proceeds. Additionally, forfeiture allegations for several properties have been filed, which include vineyards.
The indictment referenced by the DEA was just unsealed this morning, and lists 19 suspects arrested in Yakima County.
The charges include manufacturing marijuana, conspiracy, and money laundering (to the tune of $3.4 million), and allege that the group of suspects did everything they could to make it look like they were growing grapes when they were actually growing a shit-ton of pot.
Of course, the state of Washington and the country in general needs a shit-ton of pot. And if politicians would finally see the writing on the wall, the folks that grow the pot wouldn't have to be shady money-launderers and dangerous criminals.