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Big illegal marijuana garden busted in forest outside Ashland

Federal authorities and local police have snuffed out a roughly 5,000-plant marijuana grow about six miles south of Ashland in the Neil Creek drainage.

A U.S. Forest Service employee discovered the massive growing operation while hunting in January, according to a complaint filed Aug. 25 in the U.S. District Court of Medford.

Humberto Salgado-Salgado, 36, and Juan Albert Lopez-Moroyoqui, 50, two alleged illegal immigrants from Mexico, were arrested at the grow site when the Jackson County Sheriff's Department SWAT team raided the area on Aug. 18, the complaint states. 

Forest Service Special Agent Robert D. Caruthers Jr. led the investigation and filed the complaint. 

In the complaint, he said the site appeared to be a "Mexican style Drug Trade Organization grow."

While investigating the area in January, Caruthers found a marijuana drying area, a well-developed campsite, several terraced areas with plant holes, drip irrigation lines, open fertilizer bags and a garbage pit, the complaint states. He also recovered dried marijuana plants with attached buds, the complaint states.

From May until the August raid, Caruthers and county authorities kept tabs on the site, observing as people moved in and its plants grew and matured to about five feet tall, the complaint states.

The site is believed to have been in use since at least 2012, the complaint states. 

While observing the site between May and the raid, Caruthers said he saw who he believes was Salgado-Salgado and Lopez-Moroyoqui dressed in camouflage tending to plants at the grow site, the complaint states. 

According to an indictment filed Thursday in U.S. District Court of Medford, both men have been charged with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana. 

Lopez-Moroyoqui has also been charged with being an illegal immigrant, having returned to the United States after being deported following a drug-related conviction, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Justice. 

Salgado-Salgado told Caruthers he was from Morelos, Mexico, and that the men had been living at the grow site for about three and a half months after having been transported there from Santa Rosa, Calif., by a person in a van, the complaint states.

"They had been given marijuana seeds in a bag and were initially walked into the grow site location," the complaint states. 

Salgado-Salgado told Caruthers the men were expecting to get about a third of the value of the harvested marijuana,  the complaint states. 

The men are scheduled to be arraigned next week in U.S. District Court in Medford, court records show.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr