Three-month probe leads to Milton-Freewater cocaine bust

Ismael Marquez faces drug charges after the bust, in which cocaine and cash were seized.

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MILTON-FREEWATER -- The Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team, or BENT, culminated a three-month investigation Wednesday afternoon with seizure of more than five ounces of cocaine and nearly $2,000 in cash, according to Sgt. Rick Jackson, team supervisor.

Arrested was Ismael Marquez, 26, 511 Evans St. Marquez's two young children were present at the time of the bust and were removed from the home, Jackson said Thursday night.

At 2:35 p.m., BENT officers, assisted by city police, served a narcotics search warrant at the Evans Street house. The amount of cocaine seized has a street value of about $7,700, Jackson said. "That is a pretty substantial amount for Milton-Freewater."

Cocaine appears to making a resurgence in popularity as a drug of choice, he added. "We are definitely seeing more in Umatilla County. It's coming up from Mexico, then to California, then here. It's a trickle-up trend."

The success of putting ingredients for making methamphetamine behind pharmacy counters may also explain new levels of use of drugs such as cocaine, the detective said. "There used to be meth labs everywhere in the county, what we called 'mom and pop' labs. We had 100 in 2003 and we've had, what, two this year, all year."

People are looking to get high whatever way they can, Jackson said. "And right now we have a surplus of cocaine."

Marquez was booked on investigation of unlawful delivery of cocaine, unlawful delivery within 1,000 feet of a school, frequenting and maintaining a place where drugs are kept and or sold, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor.

The bust wraps up an investigation involving multiple people involved in illegal drug trade in the Milton-Freewater area, Jackson explained. The case now moves to the Umatilla County District Attorney's office. The drug task force is focused on drug traffickers and "Marquez is part of a large drug trafficking organization," Jackson said.

BENT is made up of detectives from the Pendleton Police Department, Oregon State Police, Umatilla County Sheriff's Office, Morrow County Sheriff's Office, Milton-Freewater Police Department, Umatilla Tribal Police Department, Hermiston Police Department and the Oregon National Guard.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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