Massive drug bust nets meth, marijuana

Largest in Central Oregon history

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team members, assisted by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, sort through bags, suitcases and backpacks in the McDonald’s parking lot Sept. 21. Detectives discovered two separate suitcases filled with drugs — one with 35 pounds of methamphetamine, and the other with 13 pounds of marijuana.

   Acting on a tip, detectives discovered a huge cache of methamphetamine last Wednesday on a commercial bus that had stopped in the McDonald's parking lot.
   According to Lt. Ken Mannix, of the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team, the seizure of 35 pounds of methamphetamine on Sept. 21 was the largest seizure of narcotics in the 20-year history of the CODE team.
   "It was a massive seizure," Mannix said. "This is one of the largest single methamphetamine seizures in the history of the state of Oregon."
   The incident began earlier in the day, when CODE detectives developed information that a large quantity of narcotics was being transported on an Estrella Blanca commercial bus that was traveling north on U.S. Highway 97 from California.
   After setting up surveillance, detectives decided to contact the bus at its regularly scheduled stop in the McDonald's parking lot around 1:45 p.m.
   With assistance from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, detectives located a suitcase concealing about 13 pounds of marijuana.
   When drug detective dogs "Missy" and "Ike" arrived from the Bend and Redmond police departments, a more thorough search was conducted, and the methamphetamine was discovered shrink-wrapped in 25 canisters in the suitcase.
   In the meantime, police had been keeping an eye on a nervous male passenger. "As the investigation started unfolding, detectives noticed him acting suspiciously, and then he walked off," said Mannix.
   The passenger, 20-year-old Juan Luis Rangel Cancino, of Federal Way, Wash., was detained and arrested for unlawful possession and delivery of methamphetamine after he left the scene, and began walking northbound on U.S. Highway 97.
   Mannix said that the bus was coming from the Los Angeles area, and heading to Washington. At the stop, some passengers boarded a van headed to Portland.
   "The information we have was that (Rangel Cancino) was going to continue through (to Washington)," said Mannix. "We're still trying to figure out where his true destination was."
   Although both the marijuana and the methamphetamine were found in similarly-sized black suitcases, detectives don't think they are connected.
   "We don't have any information that leads us to believe the marijuana and methamphetamine were related," said Mannix, noting that detectives have additional evidence and leads in both cases.
   Depending on how it would have been sold, the 35 pounds of methamphetamine would have been valued from $1 million to $5 million on the street.
   The street value of the marijuana was conservatively estimated at $35,000, "and that's if you're selling it per pound," he said.
   Mannix confirmed that no one was arrested for the marijuana, but pointed out that in some cases, people who ship narcotics do not necessarily accompany the package.
   The CODE Team now has two active investigations, which he considers purely coincidental.
   "To work on this task force, you have to be a seasoned officer," he said. "They just truly went the extra mile on this thing and it paid dividends."
   These days, the majority of methamphetamine found in the U.S. is coming from Mexico, Mannix said.
   "We've seen a significant decrease in clandestine methamphetamine labs, not only in the state of Oregon, but across the United States," he said.
   "The majority is being handled by drug trafficking organizations -- people that are in it for the business," he said. "Most (shipments) go to centralized houses, and are broken down from there."
   The interception of such a large cache will have far-reaching effects, Mannix noted.
   "It's going to severely disrupt and set back the drug organization responsible for it, and in addition, will disrupt the flow of narcotics into the Central Oregon region," he said.
   Rangel Cancino is being held at the Deschutes County Jail.
   The CODE Team is a multijurisdictional narcotics task force supported by the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program and Central Oregon law enforcement agencies, including the Madras, Bend, Redmond and Prineville police departments, Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook County sheriff's offices, Oregon State Police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Warm Springs Tribal Police Department, Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson County district attorney's offices, and the Oregon National Guard.