WEST LINN, Ore. - Ten pounds of pot, $18,000 and a gun. That's what West Linn police seized in a bust involving several West Linn High School students after a six-week long drug trafficking investigation.
Investigators arrested three men who they say supplied pot or were involved in supplying it to current or former West Linn High School students. West Linn Detective Mike Francis said that most of the marijuana police seized was to be distributed through a "network of dealers from all grade levels."
For the first time on Tuesday, KATU viewed the thousands of dollars, bags of marijuana and other items - spread out on a table inside West Linn City Hall - police confiscated during their investigation.
"I take that personal. When you start selling to kids, that's just not okay," West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus said of the people helping to bring more than a pound of marijuana per week into the school. "To have adults in this community facilitating those choices and making it easy for them? Giving them access? That's inexcusable."
Police arrested 51-year-old Francesco Zorich, 20-year-old Nick Joscelyn and 21-year-old Connor Krug last month. All three men live in West Linn. Investigators say Zorich hired West Linn High School students to take care of his marijuana grow. Police also say he paid for their services with pot. During this warrant, which they executed on Nov. 19, police seized nearly two pounds of marijuana and over $3,500.
Police arrested Joscelyn Nov. 25 after they said he delivered pot and other drugs from Eugene to a former 18-year-old West Linn High School student. Police said they found a half pound of pot and $2,500 in cash.
That night police arrested Krug in Eugene. They found a pound of pot and more than $4,100 in cash after they served a warrant.
Detective Mike Francis said "I've heard numerous kids from inside and out of West Linn High School refer to our town as 'Weed Linn.' This operation was partially responsible for that by supplying in excess of a pound a week of marijuana into the high school."
Francis was West Linn High School's school resource officer until he was promoted to detective this year. He said many of the arrangements to do deals were done during school hours - anywhere from the bathroom to the nearby skate park.
Francis described the drug trade in high schools - "in the under 18 crowd" - like a terrorist network.
"As crazy as it sounds, kind of like a terrorist network. People really aren't communicating outside of that network with anybody else. They keep it very secretive. They deal only with people that they know and that they've built up a trust with and they don't take outsiders coming in," Francis said.
The On Your Side Investigators uncovered drug arrests at West Linn High during the last three years. Francis said officers arrested nine students in 2010, nearly all for pot. In 2011, police arrested four students. After that, drug arrests tapered off to just one drug arrest on campus in 2012. There was a slight uptick, to four drug arrests, this year.
Those are the best available records. Francis said some of students arrested were juveniles but in the time following, says some of their records have been expunged.
Francis also said many of those who delivered the marijuana were part of the Oregon Medical Marijuana program but were selling to people who were not in the program.
"It could ripple through the entire community and we want to put a stop to it," Timeus said. "If not a stop, we want to slow it."
The investigation is ongoing and the chief said more arrests are inevitable.
"We will be working closely with the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office to ensure all offenders involved in this case are prosecuted and given the maximum amount of time in the Oregon State Penitentiary System that the law allows," the chief said.
KATU reached out to the West Linn-Wilsonville Schools superintendent for comment Tuesday but he was out of the office. Director of Student Services, Jennifer Spencer-Liams, sent KATU this statement:
"We are all concerned about the police reports of drug distribution that is occurring in our community, especially the implication that there may be current students involved. We have not been contacted by the West Linn Police about this matter, so we have no specific information to respond to at this time. We will continue to follow this with the diligence this issues deserves, and we will be prepared to take appropriate action as we are informed of findings by the West Linn Police.
We commend the police on their investigation. As in all communities in this country, there are concerns in this community around drug use Our schools, particularly West Linn High School, have been vigilante in their part of addressing this issue. As in all areas of student safety, WLWV thinks about this area in terms of comprehensive circles of support. Under the leadership of Principal Lou Bailey, we work with parents around ways to talk with their children about these issues, we have strong educational components in place, we address issues of risks of drug use and other student safety risks directly with all staff, we provide resources to students and to families, we are part of a community task force, we employ a full time School Resource Officer. We supervise well, we educate well, and this is an area where on-going vigilance is required, and we expect to continue to work with our students, families, and communities around the use of drugs. The issues in our community are not different from other communities,and we are appreciate that we have strong supports from other community members as we continue to stay focused on creating the most positive learning community possible."
Drug Activity Comparison:
To offer more perspective, the On Your Side Investigators tracked down numbers of drug activity in other cities.
West Linn Drug Activity
2012 - 21 offenses, 5 arrests
2011 - 35 offenses, 13 arrests
2010 - 65 offenses, 13 arrests
Lake Oswego Drug Activity
2012 - 168 offenses, 25 arrests
2011 - 168 offenses, 141 arrests
2010 - 226 offenses, 181 arrests