Klamath Falls – A former drug investigator and current reserve officer were arrested this week after a drug task force found about 1,200 illegal marijuana plants growing on his property in southern Oregon.
Klamath County District Attorney Eve Costello said Peter Michael Shepherd, 63, faces criminal charges related to the illegal manufacture of marijuana and “engaging in a financial transaction on property derived from illegal activity,” The Herald and News reported.
Eric Smith, 41, who is accused of renting Shepherd property east of Klamath Falls to grow marijuana without permits, was also arrested Tuesday in Malin City Hall by the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office. Smith faces the same charges as Shepherd.
It was not immediately known if the men had lawyers to comment on their behalf.
Shepherd ran for the Klamath County Sheriff in 2012 and served in the sheriff’s office from 1990 to 2004 as a patrol officer and drug detective, among other positions. Since 2007, he has worked part-time in the Malin Police Department.
Malin Police Chief Ron Broussard said he put Shepherd on furlough on Tuesday.
The Klamath County Sheriff’s Office and Basin Interagency Drug Enforcement Team visited Shepherd’s rural property on September 16 after receiving information alleging illegal activity there. The documents said the plants growing on the site are part of a licensed cannabis operation run by Smith.
Investigators say there was no permit and the plants were not hemp.
Oregon Police Sgt. Cliff Barden, who is also BINET’s supervisor, said the property was leased to Smith, who was not licensed to grow hemp or marijuana on the site.
Barden said the farmer, Smith, has legal permission to grow hemp elsewhere.
According to police, Shepherd said Smith was growing legal cannabis on the property while he was fully licensed and in legal compliance. However, Bardeen said Shepherd did not verify the documents.
After test results from the Oregon State Police showed the plants were marijuana, Shepherd and Smith were indicted by a grand jury, according to Costello.
Local law enforcement is struggling to deal with illegal marijuana operations in southern Oregon. Last week, the Oregon legislature allocated $25 million to help law enforcement agencies and community organizations pay for dealing with thousands of illegal pot farms on an industrial scale.
– Associated Press
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