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Expensive Homes Used to Grow Dope, U.S. Attorney Says

June 28, 2002
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Expensive Homes Used to Grow Dope, U.S. Attorney Says

The Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Bank tellers smelled marijuana on the weekly cash deposits from an interior design business. They told authorities, who cracked a huge indoor pot-growing operation.

The marijuana was being grown in homes ranging in value from $136,000 to more than $343,000, including one on Spokane's scenic High Drive.

Five people in their 50s and 60s were arrested on federal drug charges. The five made initial appearances Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno on charges of manufacture of more than 100 marijuana plants.

"This was literally right under everybody's nose," U.S. Attorney James McDevitt said Thursday. "It represents a sizable and sophisticated drug operation. The potential for the loss of assets (by the defendants) is pretty great."

Federal prosecutors moved to seize seven homes in Spokane and an eighth residence in Lewiston, Idaho, with a combined market value exceeding $2 million.

Agents also searched a Moses Lake farm where investigators say they believe the marijuana grown in Spokane was processed and distributed.

More than 600 mature marijuana plants were found this week in searches of the Spokane homes.

The investigation involved the secret placement of time-lapse cameras in exclusive South Hill neighborhoods to allow investigators to watch unoccupied homes where marijuana plants were grown under high-intensity lighting in basements.

Investigators also used surveillance aircraft and grand jury subpoenas to obtain bank records, tax returns and electric bills, court documents showed.

The documents disclose that the case broke in February when an anonymous caller told Spokane police Detective Mark Burbridge about cash deposits that smelled like marijuana.

Burbridge's tip was forwarded to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force.

The cash was traced to a Spokane interior design business, EJ Designs, and subsequently to the eight homes and Moses Lake ranch, court records said.

Arrested were Francis Jenny, 64, and his wife, Kathleen C. Jenny, 58, of Spokane, who owned the Moses Lake ranch and several of the houses. Their IRS tax records list their occupations as farmer and homemaker. Also arrested were Virginia "Ginger" L. Erickson, 59, of Spokane, and Gregory A. Montgomery, 54, who lived in the Lewiston, Idaho, house owned by Kathleen Jenny.

Erickson's husband, Jack N. Erickson, 66, an insurance salesman, was arrested late Thursday as he returned from a European vacation.

The business, EJ Designs, was opened in 1994 by Ginger Erickson and Kathleen Jenny, the documents said.

Investigators seized more than $80,000 in cash and a number of expensive vehicles. Court documents said another company, used as a front for the operation, may have $945,000 in cash or assets.

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