In the community

Police launch crackdown on illegal drugs, weapons with Ontario raid

ONTARIO – The raid of a suspected drug trafficking operation in Ontario last is the first step in a major crackdown on illegal narcotics as the High Desert Drug Task Force kicks into high gear, Malheur County law enforcement officials said.

The operation on Wednesday, May 10, was a cooperative effort between the Ontario Police Department, the Oregon State Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

They executed a search warrant in the 300 block of Northwest 11th Avenue and subsequently arrested six people.

Lee Fortin Sr., 34, Ontario. was charged with six felony counts, including manufacture and delivery of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine and possession of fentanyl. Police said they confiscated four pounds of methamphetamine, five ounces of fentanyl, and eight firearms along with more than $20,000 in cash.

Fortin was arraigned Thursday, May 11, in Malheur County Circuit Court.

Of 16 people found at the house, five were arrested on warrants or new drug charges. According to the Ontario Police Department, those individuals and the charges are:

• Emanuel Gonzalez, 34, Nampa, on a felony Oregon Parole Board warrant, with sex crime and weapons charges pending.

• Francisco Eugenio Bethancorth, 35, unhoused out of Ontario, on a felony parole board warrant.

• Vanessa Michelle Laney, 21, unhoused out of Ontario, on two warrants for failure to appear on misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.

• Misty Marie Doig, 42, unhoused out of Ontario, on a misdemeanor contempt of court warrant.

• Brooke Ann Hoodie, 20, Ontario, on a misdemeanor larceny warrant.

The High Desert Task Force was reinstated in February to focus on the flow of illegal drugs into the county.

The five-member task force consists of police from the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office, the Oregon State Police and the Ontario Police Department.

“Any drug house out there they will find and dealer houses out there they will find and we will use every resource we have to stop them,” said Dave Goldthorpe, Malheur County district attorney.

The illegal narcotic problem locally has metastasized over the past few years in part because of changes in Oregon’s laws and the absence of the task force, said Goldthorpe.

Those two factors helped create a perfect storm of illegal narcotics trafficking and distribution.

Illegal drugs are connected to other crimes, he said.

“By far the majority, or 95%, of serious violent crimes this office prosecutes has a drug nexus,” said Goldthorpe.

He said the operation May 11 is “exactly what law enforcement should be doing.”

The illegal narcotic crackdown is going “full steam ahead,” said Oregon State Police Lt. Mark Duncan.

“We are aggressively going to fight for the safety of Malheur County and our neighboring counties,” said Duncan.

Duncan said the illegal drug problem splashes across Idaho and Oregon along the Snake River.

“We understand this is an interstate issue so there is an Idaho nexus here too and we’ve committed to our partners across the river we are going to be committed to helping them. If you are a criminal and you think the (Snake) river is going to save you, well good luck with that,” said Duncan.

While the police raid May 10 in Ontario was significant, the operation should be put into context, said Duncan.

“In today’s world four pounds (of methamphetamine) in a house is not that much, which is sad,” said Duncan.

Duncan said police are confident there are other people locally “pushing 50 pounds (of methamphetamine) a week.”

“It used to be a couple of ounces or half a pound. There are so many players in this community, on both sides of the river, distributing large quantities,” said Duncan.

He said the community should expect to see more police activity similar to the May 10 arrests and drug seizures.

“Area law enforcement will aggressively work to thwart criminal activity, specifically guns and drugs,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

New drug task force aims to curb county’s illegal narcotics trade

Ontario City Council letter labels state drug law a ‘catastrophic failure’

SNEAKY KILLER: Fentanyl in Malheur County

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