Drug bust follows year-long investigation
Loud blasts that some mistook for gunfire rang out around Madras before dawn on Sept. 27, when dozens of law enforcement officers executed search warrants at numerous locations in Madras, and surrounding communities.
Rather than gunfire, Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said that the noises were "flashbangs," a type of stun grenade that produces a bright flash of light and a loud bang.
The noise, which was heard around 5:30 a.m., was part of a crackdown on drug trafficking throughout Central Oregon — a joint operation involving the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team, assisted by local law enforcement agencies, including several from JCSO, and the Madras Police Department.
Twelve people were arrested without incident, with nine of those facing federal charges as part of a drug distribution network operating in the Madras and Redmond area. Three others were arrested on state charges, including outstanding warrants.
Facing federal charges for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin were Mauricio Lima, 36, and Isaac Dominguez, 32, both of Madras, and Sherry Harper, 45, of Redmond.
Four more face federal charges for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine: Heather Boynton, 26, Leonel Barajas, 29, and Trever Billingsley, 26, all of Madras, and Desmond Plazola, 29, of Warm Springs.
Charged in federal court for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin was Preston Mortensen, 29, of Bend, and for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine was Marlena Biever, 38, of Redmond.
The nine defendants facing federal charges were transported to Lane County, where they made an initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Jolie A. Russo at the U.S. District Courthouse in Eugene Sept. 28.
On Oct. 2, only Mortensen was still in custody at the Lane County Jail on a U.S. Marshal's Office hold.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Huynh is prosecuting the case.
During the crackdown, law enforcement officers also identified 11 drug-endangered minors; five of those were immediately taken into custody by Jefferson County Child Welfare. As required by law, the FBI filed child abuse reports for all identified minors.
Law enforcement also partnered with victim assistance programs within the FBI and the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office.
The investigation, which began in 2016, had uncovered evidence that the organization was trafficking both heroin and methamphetamine throughout Central Oregon. Investigators also recovered 10 weapons.
Other arrests included Eric Brian Wilkinson, 43, whose hometown was unknown, on a Jefferson County warrant for a parole violation; Lindsy Renee Haney, 22, of Redmond, on a Deschutes County warrant for failure to appear for third-degree theft; and Juan Jose Vega, 27, of Culver, on state charges for unlawful possession of methamphetamine, unlawful delivery of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school, and felon in possession of a firearm.
The CODE team and the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office had previously arrested Colt Sipp, 51, of Umatilla, on state charges, but he now also faces a federal charge of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
"This unified law enforcement effort is a significant step in dismantling a drug trafficking organization profiting off the destruction of families and communities in Central Oregon suffering the ravages of drug addiction," said Billy J. Williams, U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon.
Investigators allege that Lima and Dominguez operated two cells in the Madras area and served as distributors of methamphetamine and heroin to a large customer base in Central Oregon.
"The cells worked in coordination with each other to supply drugs and transfer funds to further the conspiracy using code in their communications in an attempt to hide their illegal activity," noted Beth Anne Steele, public affairs officer for the Portland Division of the FBI, in a press release. "The investigators believe that the other defendants served under Lima and Dominguez to move the drugs to lower-level sellers and users."
Loren Cannon, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, praised those involved in the investigation. "The work done by these agents, officers, detectives and deputies will have real and lasting impacts for those who live in Central Oregon," he said.
"This law enforcement team has, over a period of many months, taken direct aim at organized crime," said Cannon. "Together, they have made our shared community safer by taking dangerous drugs and guns off the streets."
"The successful operation this week was designed to counter the emerging threat in Central Oregon against organized crime fueled by methamphetamine and heroin trafficking," said Keith Weis, DEA special agent in charge.
The CODE team is a multijurisdictional narcotics task force supported by the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program and Central Oregon law enforcement agencies, including the Madras, Warm Springs, Bend, Redmond, Prineville, Black Butte and Sunriver police departments, the Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook County sheriffs' offices, Oregon State Police, DEA, FBI, Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook County district attorneys, and the Oregon National Guard.