Man guilty of largest pot growing operation in Oregon history

By Observer staff December 19, 2013 01:17 pm

PORTLAND — A 34-year-old man was found guilty by a federal jury Monday in connection with a marijuana grow in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest.

Fredy Figueroa-Montes was the only defendant — of six — to chose to go to trial for what is believed to be the largest marijuana grow ever found in the state of Oregon, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Figueroa-Montes, an undocumented alien, was convicted on the charges of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence, and depredation of government property.

Trial evidence showed that Figueroa-Montes joined five co-defendants in growing more than 91,000 marijuana plants in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest, and that they used more than 500 pounds of illegal rodenticides, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer to cultivate the marijuana, causing an estimated $97,000 in damage to the Wildcat Creek riparian area, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Investigating officers found an Uzi long gun and two pistols in the campsite. 

“These convictions are the result of the effective collaboration between local, state and federal law enforcement partners,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. “Here in Oregon, federal prosecutors will remain aggressive when it comes to protecting federal enforcement interests that include preventing marijuana from growing on public lands, as well as preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.”

The five co-defendants previously pled guilty and were sentenced to periods of incarceration ranging from 30 months to 120 months.

Testimony presented by the government described the outdoor grow as “staggering,” encompassing a stretch over 1-½ miles in the Wildcat Creek riparian zone, where the marijuana growers disrupted the natural terrain with extensive terracing. The plants were concealed in separate pods developed by removing trees and underbrush to camouflage the grow site, and miles of plastic irrigation tubing was found. 

Evidence presented identified an extensive amount of trash, including tubing, plastic planter containers, herbicide and other toxic chemicals that were dumped along a river’s edge. 

The investigation of the marijuana grow site was led by the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office, the La Grande Police Department, and the Union/Wallowa County Drug Task Force, the Oregon State Police SWAT Team, the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team (BENT), Wallowa County Search & Rescue, Enterprise Police Department, the Union County Sheriff’s Office, the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations, Union County Sheriff’s Office, the Baker County Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Oregon Army National Guard Counterdrug Program, and the Oregon State Police Marijuana Enforcement Team, as well as the Oregon Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the United States Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and the Wallowa County District Attorney’s Office.