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Alleged 30-Year Drug Ring Is Smashed

The $20-million operation was begun by Oregon school buddies, federal officials say.

September 14, 2006|From the Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday that it had shattered a drug operation that started among high school buddies in Roseburg 30 years ago and grew over the years to become an international operation that took in more than $20 million.

Eleven of the 12 people named in a federal indictment are in custody after arrests Wednesday in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Idaho. Most are from Oregon.

U.S. Atty. Thomas E. Moss of Boise, Idaho, said the classic strategy of "follow the money" led to the arrests.

The 194-page indictment, handed up in Boise in June but sealed until Wednesday's arrests, said the operation began by growing and selling marijuana. But, the indictment said, it expanded to include smuggling drugs from Mexico and South America, growing large quantities of marijuana indoors and on public lands, and manufacturing methamphetamine.

The government seeks forfeiture of more than $24 million in assets including boats, planes, business interests and real estate in five states.

U.S. attorney spokeswoman Jean McNeil said that more arrests could follow and that those in custody probably would be sent to Idaho after court appearances where they had been arrested.

The case was handled in Idaho because it stemmed from the case of a convicted Clearwater, Idaho, drug trafficker, Leland Lang, who allegedly was supplied with large amounts of drugs by the operation.

In addition to drug distribution and money-laundering charges, six of the defendants are charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a minimum 20-year sentence.

"Lee Lang was a major distributor, and he was getting his drugs from somewhere," Moss said. "We wanted to find out where."

Among the assets the government is seeking are bank accounts, businesses, vacant property, interests in housing developments, a 1933 Ford Coupe roadster and a boat slip at Portland's Waverly Yacht Club. The property is in California, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado and Hawaii.

The indictment lists more than 470 overt acts and alleges illegal drug activities by some defendants dating to 1975.

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