By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Police seized cars, trucks, firearms and a den full of mounted animal heads from an Onalaska couple who allegedly admitted using proceeds from an overgrown personal medicinal marijuana operation to generate approximately $136,000 per year.
When James L. Arnold and Laveta L. Arnold were contacted last week at their home on the 200 block of Griel Road, they told officers they’d been growing it for more than 15 years, but during the past five have been selling it for profit, according to the Centralia Police Department.
A search warrant was served last Thursday morning, with Centralia police, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the SWAT Team.
They turned up more than 40 pounds of marijuana processed and packaged for sale with a street value of at least $2,000 per pound, according to police. In a shop building, they located what police described as an elaborate indoor garden with 614 plants, according to police detective Patty Finch.
The state medical marijuana law allows for up to 15 plants or 24 ounces for a qualifying patient.
According to court documents, the couple initially agreed to cooperate with law enforcement, but a detective learned James Arnold was warning people he had said he’d help apprehend, and they were arrested on Tuesday.
The Arnolds were charged in Lewis County Superior Court with manufacture of marijuana, possession with intent to to deliver and with money laundering on Wednesday. Prosecutors contend it occurred within 1000 feet of school grounds and while armed with deadly weapons.
Detective Finch says the case will also be referred to the Internal Revenue Service for investigation of possible tax fraud and to state authorities for business tax evasion.
Bail was set at $25,000 for James and at $10,000 for Laveta. Their arraignments are scheduled for next Thursday at 3 p.m.
According to police and court documents, James, 55, owns Alpha Marine Installations based at the home, is a vice president of a medical marijuana dispensary in the Olympia area called Urban Medicinals as well as another location in the Tacoma area.
Among the five vehicles seized were a 1948 Ford hot rod pickup and a 1969 Chevy Corvette, according to Finch. The 33 guns included hunting rifles, assault rifles and handguns, Finch states.
Finch says Arnold admitted to purchasing all or part of the vehicles with proceeds from his marijuana growing operation, as well as financing numerous hunting safari trips to Africa to hunt large trophy animals.
Approximately 30 mounted animal heads were also taken from the home.
Law enforcement officers collected computers, personal and banking records and growing equipment along with some personal property and cell phones that all appear to be proceeds from the growing operation, according to Finch.
Court documents state Centralia Police Department’s Anti-Crime Team and the sheriff’s office opened a money laundering operation regarding the couple in between December and January, related to the sale of marijuana. Finch said in a news release last week’s search warrant followed several months of investigation.
The couple has no previous criminal history, according to their court files.