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Postal pot peddler linked to Lake Oswego

A Vernonia man accused of peddling pot from a mail truck allegedly made at least one delivery to a Lake Oswego minor.

Ronald 'Rick' Berkan Jr., 46, a U.S. Postal Service worker, was arrested by state and federal law enforcement officials last Thursday on suspicion of dealing marijuana to two teen-agers, one on his Cedar Mill mail route and the other in Lake Oswego.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Berkan is charged with two federal counts of distributing marijuana to an underage individual.

Justice Department officials say Berkan sold pot for 'years' to a Cedar Mill-area buyer who was between 16 and 19 years old at the time.

Lake Oswego Police also linked Berkan's alleged drug sales to a teen in the town, according to a spokesman from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

John Deits, assistant U.S. Attorney, said Lake Oswego Police did background work for the investigation, located the local buyer and 'helped tie the fact that the kid was buying from Berkan.'

Federal statutes allow a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison on each count for the crime.

In a written statement, Justice Department officials said state and federal officers served three search warrants - two at residences in Cedar Mill and one at Berkan's home near Vernonia in Columbia County, where investigators found an indoor marijuana growing operation and about five pounds of the drug.

The months-long investigation was begun by the Postal Service in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Washington County Interagency Narcotics Team was also involved in the effort, officials said.

Berkan was arraigned last Thursday at the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland and released on bail. His trial is set for May 1.

- Ryan Geddes and Lee van der Voo