Phoenix man arrested on drug, money laundering charges

A Phoenix man who is in jail on money laundering and illegal drug charges after a police dog sniffed out $12,000 in cash believed to be drug sale proceeds, police reported.

Mark Justin Hill, 28, of the 700 block of First Street, was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on Monday on charges of unlawful manufacture, delivery and possession of marijuana. He remains there today on $50,000 bail, jail records said.

Acting on a tip from a drug-sniffing dog, Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement investigators seized a FedEx package sent from Austin, Texas, to Hill's address on Oct. 5. MADGE officials said they work with numerous shippers and look for suspicious-looking packages. If a trained dog zeroes in on a package, they get a search warrant to check it out.

"The way the (Oregon Medical) Marijuana Program works, when people decide to divert marijuana into the black market, oftentimes they do it through the mail of some sort," Lt. Brett Johnson of MADGE said, adding surplus amounts of Oregon marijuana often can net up to six times the street value in the Midwest, Texas and the Northeast. "If you look at a state that does not have a medical marijuana program, chances are they're getting marijuana from Oregon."

During the Oct. 5 search, the dog homed in on a package addressed to Hill's Phoenix home. Four days later, MADGE got a warrant to search the package and found $12,000 in cash inside. Police contacted Hill at his home, an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program grow site, this week about the package. After talking with him, police got a search warrant at the home. They found 65 pounds of marijuana in numerous plastic bins. Drug investigators said that amount was well over the amount permitted by the state's medical marijuana program.

Police also recovered trace amounts of methamphetamine and heroin, a small amount of dried psilocybin mushrooms, scales, packaging materials, shipping materials and $740 in cash believed to be drug sale proceeds. Police also found the remains of additional opened packages from Austin, Texas.

Outside, investigators found the remnants of 12 marijuana plants and one live plant, which were allowed by the number of OMMP cards Hill possessed.

Johnson said working with shippers has been an effective method for police to tracking down black market sales.,

"We try to be opportunistic," he said, noting that investigators work with all major shippers.

Hill has a preliminary hearing set at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, in Jackson County Circuit Court, records show.

— Ryan Pfeil

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