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Suspected meth ring busted

Police say raid deals a 'significant blow' to mountain drug trade
by: Marcus Hathcock, Clackamas County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Claggett escorts suspected meth dealer George Lee Gress to a patrol car in handcuffs.

A raid on a Wildwood home Thursday night, Oct. 12, resulted in the arrest of a man who police believe is a major player in the Mount Hood corridor's methamphetamine trade.

Members of the Clackamas County Interagency Task Force took George Lee Gress, 62, into custody after executing a search warrant at the man's secluded cabin in the Mount Hood National Forest.

During the raid, police seized meth paraphernalia, scales and pipes, plastic baggies with meth residue and a small, unverified amount of packaged methamphetamine.

Police say there was plenty of evidence to indicate that the house was a meth distribution center, however it didn't appear that the substance was manufactured there.

Although no weapons or significant amounts of methamphetamine turned up in a search of the house, the big find in the raid was Gress himself.

Police say that Gress has been associated with the methamphetamine community in the Sandy/Mount Hood area for the better part of a decade.

'We've been getting complaints about this guy since I got here eight years ago,' said Officer KT Taylor of the Sandy Police Department, a task force member. 'Whenever we'd talk to (meth) users in town, his was the name that always came up.'

Until recently, law enforcement officials didn't have enough of a case to arrest Gress, said Deputy Brandon Claggett of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

'We recently developed enough information to solidify this investigation,' Claggett said.

Police arrested four other individuals who were in the house at the time of the raid - Charlene Marie Bales, Sativa Lynn Dunham, Autumn Lynn Miller and Paul Maurice Williams. All four are expected to face charges of possession of a controlled substance.

The suspects were taken to the Clackamas County Jail and were subsequently released. The next step, according to Claggett, is for the district attorney to decide whether the case should go to a grand jury. If a grand jury indicts the quintet, only then would they go to jail for an extended amount of time.

The interagency task force, a special assignments unit with officers from various agencies, executed the raid without incident. Thursday's bust occurred the same day the sheriff's office revealed that the task force had seized $2.1 million worth of marijuana plants at a Welches home late last month.

'When you have the combined resources of personnel, it's a big benefit,' said Jim Strovink, sheriff's office spokesman. 'You need that personnel to get those complex jobs done. We haven't even scratched the surface yet; they are going to be doing some great busts.'

Claggett says that Thursday's raid and last month's marijuana bust illustrates the issues that exist on the mountain.

'The Mount Hood area is a beautiful community,' said Claggett, who works with the federally funded Weed and Seed anti-drug program in the Mount Hood corridor. 'But when you're driving down the highway, you don't recognize the substantial issues and substance challenges that go on in the back roads.'

Investigators are hoping that Gress and/or the four other suspects will tell them where to find Gress' supply of meth. But even if they don't get that information, police consider the raid a victory, since they put an alleged longtime meth salesman out of business.

'I think (arresting Gress) is a very significant blow to the methamphetamine culture in our area,' Taylor said.