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Money seized in pot raids goes to law enforcement

During a recent raid on an illegal marijuana grow site near Gold Hill, more than $640,000 was confiscated. Does that money go into the fund for these operations — where it should go — or does it go to the county's general fund?

— A.W., Central Point

Seeing all those six-figure sums seized at unauthorized and unlicensed marijuana grows in Southern Oregon piqued our curiosity too, A.W.

For those just tuning in, Jackson County Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team detectives seized $643,524 during an Aug. 31 search on a grow site in the 10000 block of Old Stage Road in Gold Hill. They also seized five tons of processed illicit cannabis, forged identification and five firearms at that site.

We reached out to Jackson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Aaron Lewis for a better understanding of where the money goes. The short answer is that the money can’t go just anywhere, and it can’t be used for just anything.

According to an emailed statement provided by Lewis and JCSO’s finance team, funds from asset forfeitures “must be used to increase or supplement law enforcement only.”

The report goes on to say that money from forfeitures can’t replace funds already budgeted for the sheriff’s office, and instead must be kept in a separate interest bearing account.

By law, the funds can’t be used to cover employee salaries, benefits or overtime.

Instead they’re used to “enhance law enforcement operations” by paying for law enforcement training or certain types of equipment described as non-militarized.

The Gold Hill property owner, Hernan Sanchez Villalobos, was arrested at the time on felony charges of manufacturing, possessing and exporting marijuana, conspiring to distribute marijuana and laundering money. As of Tuesday morning, charges had not been filed in Jackson County Circuit Court or U.S. District Court, and Sanchez Villalobos was not an inmate in the Jackson County Jail.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com.