Charlie Ringo, a former Oregon state senator living in Bend, has been linked to illegal use of marijuana that state regulators thought had been destroyed, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
The marijuana was discovered when Bend Police investigated the March explosion of an illegal lab for manufacturing marijuana hash oil using butane. Police found 134 pounds of marijuana that state officials ordered destroyed because it contained unhealthy pesticides.
The investigation connected back to Ringo, who owns 85 percent of High Cascade Farms, which is alleged to have engaged in black market activities. Last week, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates marijuana businesses, canceled High Cascade’s license due to numerous violations uncovered in the investigation.
Ringo, 60, represented Beaverton in the state Legislature from 2001 until leaving office in 2006 and moving to Bend.
He has not been charged in this matter.
Ringo did not return phone calls seeking comment, and Friday afternoon, no one was at his Mammoth Drive home.
About 5:30 p.m. March 18, a blast rocked a duplex at 3058 NE Weddell St. shared by husband and wife David and Jennifer Paulsen, who lived there with their 3-year-old daughter and David Paulsen’s sister.
The explosion lifted the home off its foundation and the roof off the building frame. David and Jennifer Paulsen were transferred to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, where they underwent weeks of medical treatment for severe burns. David Paulsen received skin grafts on both hands, and Jennifer Paulsen has permanent scarring on her legs, according to Jennifer Paulsen’s mother, Jacqueline Phillips,
Phillips said Charlie Ringo visited her daughter and son-in-law at the hospital and told them and their attending relatives not to talk to authorities.
“He was rather gruff,” she said.
Hours after the explosion, investigators with the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team applied for a search warrant to pore over the Paulsen’s home and vehicles. It was quickly determined the pair had used their home to illegally manufacture butane honey oil, a marijuana extract, according to law enforcement. Detectives found ledgers in the home containing information such as strain, tag numbers and weight.
The OLCC requires marijuana businesses to input data about their plants into a database called METRC, which tracks marijuana plants from seed to finished product.
CODE investigators found two plant identification tags that traced to High Cascade Farms, which lists a home east of Bend as its principal address and Charles Ringo as president.
The METRC database showed that the marijuana tags found at the Paulsen’s home should be attached to plants at High Cascade Farms, wrote Det. Andrew Davis, a CODE team member from the Bend Police Department.
According to the OLCC, the Paulsens had completed paperwork to work for High Cascade Farms but had not paid their fees, so they were ineligible to work there, according to the search warrant affidavit.
There were only two employees listed with for High Cascade Farms on OLCC records, Ringo and Andrew Heller.
Three weeks after the explosion, Heller — or someone using his account — entered in METRC that 205.9 pounds of marijuana had been destroyed at the farm after testing positive for pesticides. Investigators also noticed that earlier, Heller or his account had adjusted 133 pounds of marijuana in METRC to read “entry error” or “waste.” This figure coincided with the amount of marijuana recorded in the log books discovered at the Paulsen’s home — 134.5 pounds.
CODE team investigators were told by OLCC there should be no marijuana remaining at High Cascades Farm.
“The only marijuana at the facility should be seeds,” Davis wrote.
On April 6, Ringo wrote to OLCC to say he was temporarily shuttering High Cascades Farm and he intended to sell the business.
Two weeks later, the CODE team searched High Cascade Farms.
As police descended on the property, Ringo and an associate, William Gleich, were in an upstairs drying room, where police discovered marijuana plants being dried for processing, according to the search warrant affidavit.
Ringo reportedly yelled to Gleich, “We aren’t telling them anything,” according to the document.
The CODE team hauled away 107 pounds of marijuana and 465 grams of finely ground marijuana, aka, keef. With his permission, they downloaded the contents of Gleich’s phone. Ringo did not allow police to search his phone, but police later obtained a search warrant for it.
Since their release from the hospital, the Paulsens have moved back to their native Boring, where they currently live.
In late July, they were arrested in Portland by U.S. Marshals on federal charges.
Their 3-year-old daughter is living with them on a “safety plan” approved by the Department of Human Services, which had temporarily placed the girl in foster care after the explosion.
With the legal marijuana market in Oregon at a saturation point, growers and sellers are increasingly looking to the black market to make a profit, according to Oregon’s top federal attorney, Billy Williams.
Local law enforcement officials are committed to tackling the illegal diversion of legal product. Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson and Deschutes District Attorney John Hummel have pushed state officials to hand over lists of sites authorized to grow marijuana to better identify black market producers.
Last week, the OLCC announced it had canceled the license of High Cascades Farm, citing 13 violations. Several violations involved false record-keeping on the account of Ringo’s business partner Andrew Heller.
Heller denied involvement in illegal activity to The Bulletin, saying his OLCC account had been used improperly.
“I haven’t been out there since January,” he said. “I have nothing to do with anything that happened out there.”
A native of Corvallis, Ringo served as a senator and representative in the Oregon Legislature, sitting on influential committees and leading an unsuccessful effort to make the Legislature nonpartisan.
Ringo told The Bulletin in 2006 he would run for office again in 12 years, “after the children are grown.”
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