TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — The Haskell County Sheriff's Office arrested two people on Wednesday in connection to a drug trafficking investigation.
Deputies partnered with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, Drug Enforcement Administration in McAlester, and DEA Denver to execute multiple search and arrest warrants in Colorado and Haskell County.
Investigators were looking into an illegal marijuana drug trafficking organization being operated in Oklahoma and Colorado.
The DEA Denver Front Range Task Force initially identified a Chinese money laundering organization they say was selling black market marijuana to fund criminal activities.
Officials say 21 Chinese nationalists have been indicted by a grand jury in Colorado. Two of the suspects were arrested in Haskell County. Authorities believe the group moved their main grow operation from Colorado to Oklahoma.
Agents learned Weilun Zhang and Cindy Zheng bought property in rural Haskell County with money collected from selling black market marijuana.
Deputies and OBN agents investigated Zhang and Zheng and found a registered medical marijuana grow operation at the property, and they believe they, and others in the group, were selling it illegally elsewhere.
"They had another, third party person, license their grow for them," said Sheriff Tim Turner, Haskell County.
After receiving a search warrant, Zhang and Zheng were arrested at the property on Colorado warrants.
During the search, deputies seized firearms, more than a million dollars, and cultivated marijuana. Agents and deputies confiscated and destroyed more than 10,000 marijuana plants and about 100 pounds of processed marijuana.
Sheriff Turner says he anticipates more illegal operations to start popping up here because he refers to Oklahoma and the loose medical marijuana laws as "The Wild West." But, he says his team is ready to find them.
"If you want to move to Oklahoma to set up a grow operation in Oklahoma, that's fine, let's do it, but let's do it properly," Sheriff Turner said. "If you don't, we're going to eradicate your property, we are going to evict you and hopefully send you back to the state you came from."
Turner says this is the first case in Colorado involving marijuana where suspects are hit with the "Rico Act," which deals with organized crime and racketeering.
While many illegal drug operations in Colorado get slapped with misdemeanors, the people in this case, Turner said, are looking at a minimum of eight years if convicted.
Both Zhang and Zheng were indicted on the following charges:
14 of the 21 people indicted have been arrested.
We asked Sheriff Turner if their "third party" who legally registered the farm in Haskell County would be in trouble as well. He said, so far, no charges have been filed and they are not releasing a name.