Thursday's raids on food stamp fraud in Klamath Falls was sparked by the "Operation Trojan Horse' investigation, and a suspected money-laundering operation.
'Operation Gold Card' targeted over 60 suspects...35 have now been arrested.
"This is not just a local or a state venture." Stated Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah. "This is darned near a national-type venture."
Police say the owners of the Carniceria Mi Pueblo meat market paid 'Oregon Trail' card holders 50 cents on the dollar.
Detective Eric Shepherd says the resulting profits funded operations of the Taqueria Mi Pueblo taco stand on Oregon Avenue...
"That was essentially the money laundering portion of this."
Detective Shepherd points out that operation gold card has links to the execution-style slaying of two men near Bonanza nearly two years ago...
"This investigation started through 'Trojan Horse', which as you well know, was a cartel connection."
A man being interviewed told police that he wired money through a service similar to Western Union at the meat market to pay cartel debts.
While that doesn't specifically link the market to drug cartels, it did trigger an investigation into Oregon Trail card abuse.
Shepherd notes that the system is easy to abuse...
"There's no real way for even a cashier to check to see if that card belongs to that person. If they have a card and a PIN number, they can use it."
Police say Severo Toro-Castellon, Rafael Ortega-Vargas, and Jose Moremo-Hernandez were the ringleaders of the food stamp fraud operation.
Their felony charges include aggravated theft, conspiracy, and computer crime.
The food stamp fraud investigation in Klamath Falls isn't the only crackdown currently underway.
State and federal investigators are working on similar cases in Portland, Salem, and Hillsboro.
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