Indoor pot farms busted in outer SE Portland

Take a look inside these houses. They were renovated – not for people, but for large-scale marijuana growing operations. You might be surprised who police say is behind this criminal caper …

From the outside, this fenced home on SE Powell Boulevard looks like a typical Powellhurst-Gilbert residence. Inside, officials say, they found a sophisticated pot farm.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because neighbors thought something smelled rotten in several homes in our area, their reports led police to start an investigation several months ago.

The investigation started after a tip from community residents concerned about drug activity on their street, and culminated on August 3 when Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) Drugs and Vice Division (DVD) served five search warrants.

These are some of the 2,000 pot plants police investigators say they found in one of the houses … PPB photo

… as are these plants. PPB photo

“This was part of an investigation into a drug trafficking organization operated by Chinese nationals,” said PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson after the bust. “The Portland Police Bureau was assisted in this investigation by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.”
The investigation revealed that marijuana was being cultivated in several “grow houses”, and then being distributed throughout the region. “Three of these grow houses were specifically renovated to accommodate large-scale marijuana grows, and were not occupied by any residents,” Simpson told us. “This operation has no connection to medical marijuana, and the DTO was strictly a ‘for profit’ operation.”

Investigators say these pot growers treated themselves to free electricity, thanks to their clandestine hookup. PPB photo

During this investigation, Simpson said that officers learned that, in some of the grow houses, electricity was being diverted directly from the wires on utility poles and run into the houses. “This powered a network of transformers, lights, and filtration systems. This power diversion presented a clear and present danger to the neighborhood, as a substantial fire hazard.”

Investigators believe that nearly $8,000 per month of electrical usage was being stolen by this power diversion, Simpson added.

Landlords will have to deal with this unique interior renovation – the growers ripped out walls to expand their operation. PPB photo
One of the houses where evidence of sophisticated marijuana growing operations was found was in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, at 11847 SE Powell Boulevard.

Even though this residence was last sold in 2007 for $257,500, public records show that this property drew nuisance complaints for being unkempt in 2008, 2009, and 2011.

Hopefully, Pleasant Valley neighbors will get an increase in their street’s livability, now that the indoor grow operation has been stripped from this house.

At a Pleasant Valley neighborhood home at 7330 SE 118th Drive, a home that sold in 2010 for $150,000 had also been converted to an indoor pot farm – as was a home in Clackamas County, at 30221 Southeast Eagle Creek Road.
At the three grow houses, investigators seized an estimated 2,000 marijuana plants, along with growing equipment, power transformers, and packaging materials designed to ship processed marijuana.
“The estimated street value of the seized marijuana exceeds $2 Million,” Simpson reported.

51-year-old Fujiu Chen and 45-year-old De Bin Zhen are accused of running this large-scale marijuana growing and distribution business. MCDC photos

At 6:10 a.m., police took 51-year-old Fujiu Chen into custody; and at 11:45 a.m., they arrested 45-year-old De Bin Zhen. “These two men were charged with multiple felony drug counts, in connection with this investigation,” stated Simpson.

Two other locations were searched, the police spokesman added. One of the houses, at 1155 SE 148th Avenue in the Centennial neighborhood, is owned by De Bin Zhen.

In the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, officers also searched a rented home at 7424 Southeast Clay Street. These locations were not used as grow houses, Simpson pointed out, but were the residences of the two suspects involved in this investigation.

Both Zhen and Chen remain at Multnomah County Detention Center with $180,00 bail assigned to each, on multiple charges of manufacturing, delivering, and possessing marijuana. Additionally, Chen was placed on a United States Immigration Service hold.

It looks like these shipping supplies now won’t be used for sending out packages of pot. PPB photo

“Each year, the Police Bureau receives numerous complaints about marijuana grow houses and associated odor, foot and vehicle traffic, and violence,” Simpson concluded. “These things affect neighborhood livability, and the Police Bureau is committed to addressing them. Community members with concerns about drug houses in their neighborhoods are encouraged to call the Drugs and Vice Division at (503) 823-3784.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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