Klamath Basin News, Thursday, Jan. 25 – KF Woman Arrested on Fentanyl Possession and Delivery Charges; Oregon Lawmakers Recriminalizing Possession Of Small Amounts Of Some Drugs; Medford Law Firm Building Potential Cases Against Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center

The latest and most comprehensive coverage of local News, Sports, Business, and Community News stories in the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM / 102.5FM, The Herald and News, and BasinLife.com, and powered by Mick Insurance, your Local Health and Medicare agents. Call 541-882-6476.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Klamath Basin Weather

 
Today
Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming sunny, with a high near 43. Overnight, expect snow after 5am. Snow level 4600 feet lowering to 4200 feet after midnight with a low around 29 degrees.  Chance of precipitation is 60%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Friday
Rain and snow showers likely, becoming all rain after 7am, with a high near 43.  Chance of precipitation is 60%. Little or no snow accumulation expected. Overnight, showers with a low around 38.  Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Saturday
Showers likely, mainly before 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 50. Southeast wind around 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Sunday
A chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.

Today’s Headlines

On Tuesday, members of the Basin Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (BINET), arrested Klamath Falls resident Ashley K. Childress (37), regarding Childress distributing Fentanyl in Klamath Falls since 2023.

Since the investigation began, BINET served search warrants and conducted searches at multiple locations in Klamath Falls. Seized directly from Childress during the investigation was approximately 1,075.6 grams (2.32 pounds) of Fentanyl, approximately 258.9 grams (.57 pound) of Methamphetamine, 30 counterfeit oxycodone M30 tablets containing Fentanyl, thirtythree (33) firearms, and United States Currency believed to be proceeds of sales of Fentanyl.

Childress was lodged at the Klamath County Jail on charges of: · Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance – Fentanyl · Unlawful Delivery of a Controlled Substance – Fentanyl The investigation is ongoing. This BINET investigation included detectives from the Klamath Falls Police Department, the Oregon State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and an intelligence analyst from the Oregon National Guard.

BINET is a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force that identifies, disrupts, and dismantles local drug trafficking organizations. Residents of Klamath County are encouraged to report drug activity to the Klamath Falls Police Department Tip-Line at 541-883-5334.

 

More people visited Crater Lake in 2023 than the year prior, but the beautiful national park still saw moderate crowds by recent standards. That might be by design.

In 2023, a total 559,976 people visited the park, according to data released this month by the National Park Service, including 416,104 people who visited between June and September. That’s a 6% increase over the annual visitor count in 2022, but a far cry from the record 756,344 people who showed up in 2016.

Crater Lake Superintendent Craig Ackerman said while several issues are likely at play, he suspects two main reasons for the recent decline in visitor numbers: unpredictability with wildfires, and a concerted effort to reduce marketing of the park.

While wildfires were not a serious problem at Crater Lake in 2023, the possibility that they could be a problem may have been enough to sway some people to visit other, less risky places in the summer, Ackerman said. That’s a trend he’s seen over the past few years, after several seasons of devastating wildfires.

Meanwhile, park officials in recent years have also been working with state and local tourism agencies to tamp down the marketing of Crater Lake, he said, especially following the enormous crowds that came between 2016 and 2019, on the heels of the National Park Service’s centennial celebration.

 

The Oregon Department of Education Career and Technical Education Revitalization Grant team made its official notification that the Klamath Falls City Schools’ Klamath Union High School Media Entrepreneurial Enterprises grant was awarded in full for $249,755.

Klamath Union CTE Media Design instructor, Dan Stearns, applied for the grant, which will bring an assortment of new equipment to the program.

Through the grant, the KU CTE Digital Media program is continuing the development of the CTE Digital Media career pathway by creating a new CTE program named, KU Media Entrepreneurial Enterprises.

The new program will be an on-site, student-run CTE Digital Media business which provides students hands-on experiences and opportunities for entrepreneurship in photography, graphic design and video production.

The development includes two additional programs in KFCS. Beginning in the 2024-2025 school year will be the start of a new CTE digital media bridge program at Ponderosa Middle School. This will introduce students to digital media careers, serving as a feeder to KU Media Entrepreneurial Enterprises.

The second addition will be the creation of a CTE Summer Immersion and Skills Academy where industry experts engage students in real-world, four one-week work experiences, providing students with the knowledge, skills and experience to join KU Media Entrepreneurial Enterprises.

Stearns said $35,000 of the grant will go into the Summer Immersion and Skills Academy.

In all, there were 66 applications for the grant and 31 projects were recommended for funding.

 

A local man arrested multiple times in the past decade on charges related to domestic violence was indicted with additional charges this week in a recent case.

Cole Nakima Oleachea, 29, was arrested Jan. 10 after his ex-girlfriend reported him for domestic assault and kidnapping.

According to the police report, the crime took place on or around Nov. 24, 2023.

Upon arrest, Oleachea was charged with first- and second-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, menacing constituting domestic violence, parole violation and tampering with a witness after allegedly coercing the victim to recant her statement to police.

The charges against Oleachea for kidnapping, menacing, UUOW and tampering with a witness were dropped after he was taken into custody.

But the grand jury assigned to the case indicted Oleachea on Jan. 18 with a new list of charges, which, in total, include the original parole violation, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of fourth-degree domestic assault, two counts of coercion and one count of attempted sexual penetration, during which, the indictment said the victim was threatened with a gun.

 

Klamath County School District has two openings on its Budget Committee.

The budget committee works with the KCSD Board of Directors to review and approve the district’s annual budget.

Applicants must reside within Klamath County School District boundaries. The following positions are open:

  • Position 1: Chiloquin/Gilchrist Zone. Appointment expires June 30, 2026.
  • Position 4: Ferguson/Shasta Zone. Appointment expires June 30, 2026.

The KCSD Board of Directors will conduct interviews for each of the positions at the March 7 regular school board meeting at the Klamath County School District Office, 2845 Greensprings Drive or via Zoom.

Interested applicants may call Stephanie Bland at 541-851-8767 in the superintendent’s office for an application or go to the district’s website at www.kcsd.k12.or.us. Once on the website, go to the menu on the top, Departments, then Business Services, Budget 24-25.

(Link: www.kcsd.k12.or.us/district/budget-information.cfm.)

Applications will be accepted until 3 p.m., Feb. 23, 2024.

 

Congratulations to 13 year old Mason Rice was recently invited to Klamath Community College for a special meeting with the school president and mascot Baxter the Badger in recognition of his upstanding citizenship efforts during the Christmas season.

In December, Rice decided to utilize his rewards dollars earned at Ponderosa Middle School through good behavior for others rather than on himself, cashing in months of earnings to acquire a fully decorated Christmas tree to donate to a family in need. His mother, Stacy McCarl, along with teachers, also assisted in the effort, providing lights and a tree stand.

A family in Klamath Falls that was unable to afford a tree was found, and the tree provided right before Christmas eve. The tree delivery was videoed and uploaded to TikTok, where it quickly went viral online and has to date been viewed more than 500,000 times.

In addition, Rice is also an active volunteer assisting with food donations through the family’s church, and according to his mom regularly helps others by mowing lawns and shoveling driveways.

Upon viewing the viral video, KCC staff relayed Rice’s community efforts to KCC President Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, who invited Rice and McCarl to campus in January to bestow upon them the first-ever “Badger of Honor” award for citizenship.

An avid BMX bike enthusiast, Rice recently lost his bike, and also suffered a broken foot due to a school bullying incident. Upon learning this, Dr. Gutierrez pledged that the KCC Foundation would also acquire a new bicycle for Rice, in addition to the certificate and badger plushy received in recognition of his efforts.

 

Dozens filled Bend’s Masonic Lodge for a Sunday fundraising event to benefit a Bend family who lost five members in a tragic two-vehicle crash on Highway 97 in Klamath County last week and left the sole survivor, a 11-year-old girl, in critical condition.

The organizer of a GoFundMe page fundraiser, family friend Pedro Molina said, they wanted to do something for the family of the young girl. 

By Monday morning, the page had raised more than nearly $77,000 toward a $100,000 goal to help with family expenses. Sunday’s fundraiser, including a raffle and food, was organized by the area’s Latino community.

A dance will also be held in the near future to raise additional funds for the family, Molina said.

There will also be an additional fundraising event at El Patron Mexican Kitchen in Redmond from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. next Saturday. All proceeds will go to help cover the medical and funeral costs.

 

As part of their Second Stage Series, the Ross Ragland Theater will host local band Owls & Aliens at 7 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Jan. 25th.

The series allows local upcoming artists a chance to showcase their talents, either in a small intimate setting or on the main stage with a modified setup.

Formed in 2019, the Owls & Aliens has become a Basin favorite. The group combines multiple styles of rock including classic, punk, alternative and heavy metal. The Ragland boasts that the band has curated a unique sound that will create a riveting show.

Owls & Aliens features members Dustin Carter (vocals), Travis Siebecke (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jeffry Maryinez (lead guitar, backup vocals), Nicholi Ohbronovich (bass, vocals), and Dakotah Webb (drums, backup vocals).

Tickets are $20, and can be purchased at the Ragland Box Office Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m., by calling (541) 884-LIVE, or by visiting their website at www.ragland.org

 

Lake of the Woods is holding a Winter Snow Festival in a few weeks.

From 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on February 10th and 11th, 2024, the Winter Snow Festival is open to the public.

Folks can join in on a snow sculpture/snowman building contest, enjoy an outdoor bonfire with music, play cornhole, snowshoe the Ancient Trees walking loop and more. For an additional 10 bucks a person, you can even get in on a horse-drawn sleigh ride.

The Lake of the Woods Kite Fest, which is held on the second weekend of every February, was canceled. George Gregory of Lake of the Woods Mountain Lodge said  the cancellation was because the ice isn’t strong enough to support people.

Klamath County is predicted to have a great economic year in store, and residents can hear all about it at the upcoming Klamath County Economic Development Association Economic Summit.

Wednesday, KCEDA will host the third annual event at the Ross Ragland Theater from 9 a.m. to noon

Andrew Stork, operations and project manager for KCEDA, said the Economic Summit event is a way for Klamath County residents to hear about the economic outlook “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

State economists Josh Lehner and Damon Runberg are among those presenting at the summit, as well as a few local experts who specialize in topics like agriculture and construction.

“2024 should be our biggest economic development year ever,” KCEDA CEO and Executive Director Randy Cox said. “There will be a lot of groundbreaking developments throughout the year.”

Admission to the event is $10, and tickets can be purchased the day of the event at the theater or in advance online.

 

The U.S. Forest Service in Southern Oregon is working to clear hundreds of miles of trails impacted by downed trees after a severe winter storm.

A news release from the Forest Service said tens of thousands of trees fell between Lake of the Woods and Cherry Creek, affecting about 300 miles of trails and 70 miles of cross country ski paths.

Due to extreme winter weather, including high-speed winds and heavy, wet snowfall, crews are struggling to clear the trails.

“Weather events … are currently affecting the ability of crews to … remove trees, restricting crews to a peak of one mile per hour,” the release said.

Public Affairs Officer Ben Wilson said the process is “slow going,” but crews were quick to take action.

The release said crews are faced with hip-deep snow levels as they try to remove hundreds of trees per mile of affected trails.

Wilson said they have two or three crews rotating shifts to get the area cleaned up. Crews are also receiving assistance from volunteer organizations, including Klamath Basin Snow Drifters, Chiloquin Ridge Riders and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Forest managers request that the public avoid the area for recreation at this time as parking areas and roadways may be occupied by repair crew vehicles.

Trails and snow parks may take some time to reopen, the release said.

For more information, contact the Klamath Ranger District at 541-883-6714.

 

Cascade Health Alliance and Healthy Klamath are hosting Family Fun Days around the county. The events are free and open to the public to increase awareness of community resources.

Event-goers will be treated to free tacos and raffle prizes, and there will be a bouncy house for kids. Denise Martinez of Klamath Community College said the event’s purpose is “to help get the word out in smaller communities that there are resources available to them.”

Currently, there are regular weekly outreach efforts in Merrill, Chiloquin, Sprague River, Klamath Falls and Keno, and are scheduled as follows:

Klamath Falls — Every Tuesday, 2 to 4 p.m., at the Klamath County Courthouse, 316 Main St.

Keno — Every 2nd and 4th Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Keno Tractor, 15555 Highway 66, Keno Merrill — Every 3rd Wednesday, 1 to 3 p.m., Merrill Water Department., 301 E. First St., Merrill

Malin — Every 3rd Thursday, 2 to 4 p.m., Malin Library Conference Hall, 2307 Front Street Malin Chiloquin — Every 2nd and 4th Friday, Farmer’s Market Lot, Chiloquin

Sprague River — Every 2nd and 4th Friday, Sprague River Community Center, 23411 Sprague River Road.

Organizations and vendors can join by contacting jenniferd@cascadecomp.com.  

 

The Linkville Players open their 2023-24 season with “A Company of Wayward Saints”  playing at the Linkville Playhouse.

Written by George Herman, “Saints” is a tribute to the dedication and heart of actors, as well as the understanding and truth-telling that can come out of acting.

The play follows a comedic acting troupe, with familiar Renaissance-era characters such as Pantalone the greedy old man, and Capitano the swaggering braggart, as they find themselves broke and broke down right here in Klamath Falls.

A wealthy patron offers to pay their way home — if they can impress him with an improv show on the topic of his choosing. The tale that ensues takes us through the history of man from the garden of Eden to the assassination of Julius Caesar, up into modern life.

But, when improv goes awry the troupe is forced to look beyond the slapstick and costumes and face the redeeming powers of humor and understanding.

The show, produced by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals, features an all-local cast including Em Barr, Brian Green, Chris Malloy, Mathew Landsiedel, Jared McCleve, Corrie Judd, Rikkilea McGuffy and newcomers Aidan Coe and Hanna Levesque.

Performances take place Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of one Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on Jan. 21. The play will enjoy a seven-performance run, ending on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024.

Tickets can be purchased for $15-18 in advance at Poppy (522 Main Street) or up to half an hour before curtain at the Playhouse directly.

 

Around the state of Oregon

Democratic lawmakers in Oregon on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping new bill that would undo a key part of the state’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law, a recognition that public opinion has soured on the measure amid rampant public drug use during the fentanyl crisis.

The bill would recriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs as a low-level misdemeanor, enabling police to confiscate them and crack down on their use on sidewalks and in parks, its authors said.

The bill also aims to make it easier to prosecute dealers, to access addiction treatment medication, and to obtain and keep housing without facing discrimination for using that medication.

Voters passed the pioneering decriminalization law, Measure 110, with 58% support in 2020. But Democratic legislators who championed it as a way to treat addiction as a public health matter, not a crime, are now contending with one of the nation’s largest spikes in overdose deaths, along with intensifying pressure from Republicans and growing calls from a well-funded campaign group to overhaul it.

Researchers say it’s too soon to determine whether the law has contributed to the state’s deadly overdose surge, and supporters of the measure say the decadeslong approach of arresting people for possessing and using drugs didn’t work.

The bill, unveiled by Lieber and other Democrats serving on a recently created committee on addiction, is set to be introduced during the legislative session that starts in February. The Legislature adjourned over the summer, but concern over the state’s drug crisis led Democrats to launch the committee in between sessions. Since September, the committee has held multiple hearings and heard testimony from law enforcement and substance use disorder experts on the law’s accomplishments and shortcomings.

 

A personal injury law firm in Medford is building a legal team dedicated to victims of drug diversion claims at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

David deVilleneuve of Shlesinger & deVilleneuve Attorneys P.C. in Medford says that he, another lawyer and three legal assistants with the law firm will look closely into potential cases against Asante.

The five-person legal team was assembled after deVilleneuve said he received about 20 phone calls from former Asante RRMC patients or family members of former patients, all related to the ongoing investigation.

deVilleneuve said his firm has already taken on “four or five legitimate” clients and about five or six more are still pending.

deVilleneuve said several patients told him that Asante said they were victims of drug diversion at Rogue Regional Medical Center. 
Medford Police, the Oregon Health Authority and the FBI are all conducting investigations into drug diversion claims at Asante RRMC. deVilleneuve’s firm is also conducting an independent investigation into the drug diversion claims.

Medford PD said the Asante investigation is “actively ongoing.

 

An Oregon jury awarded $85 million Tuesday to nine victims of wildfires that ravaged the state in 2020, the latest verdict in a series of legal proceedings that are expected to put the utility PacifiCorp on the hook for billions of dollars over its liability for the deadly blazes.

PacifiCorp expects post-verdict rulings and insurance payments to bring its share of the verdict to just under $80 million, the company said in a statement.

The fires were among the worst natural disasters in Oregon’s history, killing nine people, burning more than 1,875 square miles (4,856 square kilometers) and destroying upward of 5,000 homes and other structures.

Last June a jury found PacifiCorp liable for damages for negligently failing to cut power to its 600,000 customers despite warnings from top fire officials, saying its power lines were responsible for multiple blazes. PacifCorp has appealed.

That jury awarded around $90 million to 17 homeowners named as plaintiffs in the case, with damages to be determined later for a broader class that could include the owners of about 2,500 properties, as estimated by plaintiffs’ attorneys.

The damages awarded Tuesday were the first in cases brought by that broader class, with additional trials expected in February and April.

PacifiCorp also agreed last month to pay $299 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 463 plaintiffs who were harmed by separate devastating wildfires in southern Oregon over Labor Day 2020.

 

GraphicOregon Dept of Human Services Encourages People To Protect Teir EBT Food and Cash Benefits from Electronic Theft

Need to know

  • Take steps today to keep your EBT card safe from electronic theft
  • The ebtEDGE website and mobile app are the only safe places to manage your benefits
  • People with EBT cards are encouraged to lock their cards when not in use and block out of state and online purchases

(Salem) –The Oregon Department of Human Services is encouraging people in Oregon to take steps protect their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards from electronic theft. Electronic theft includes card skimming, card cloning, phishing and other similar methods.

“We know that many individuals and families in Oregon rely on the food and cash assistance they receive through their EBT cards to meet their basic needs and to get enough healthy food for themselves and their families,” said Claire Seguin (she/her), director of the ODHS Self-Sufficiency Programs. “We urge everyone with an EBT card to take these simple steps to protect their benefits.” 

How to protect your EBT card information:

  • The ebtEDGE website and mobile app are the only safe places to manage your benefits. Bookmark the ebtEDGE login page (cardholder.ebtedge.com)in your browser for quick access. Download the app on the Apple App Storeor get it on Google Play. Do not use any other website or app to check benefits.
  • Beware of social media scams. Only trust social media posts and messages from ODHS official accounts. We will never ask for your benefits card information on social media.
  • Freeze your card right after each use and unfreeze it before you make purchases. Visit ebtEDGE.comor use the ebtEDGE mobile app. Look for “Freeze Card” under “Account Services.”
  • Block purchases made outside of Oregon and online purchases. Visit EBTedge.comor use the ebtEDGE mobile app. Look for “Protect My Account” under “Account Services.” You can remove the blocks later if needed.
  • Keep your PIN secret. Don’t share your PIN with anyone outside your household. Cover the keypad when you enter your PIN on a machine.
  • Check the activity on your EBT account regularly. If you see any purchases you didn’t make, cancel your card
  • Check card reading machines for anything suspicious on top of or attached to the card swiper or keypad. They can be hard to spot, but are often bigger than the original machine and may hide parts of the machine.
  • Do not provide your EBT card number or PIN by phone or text. Scammers use text messages to get EBT card numbers and PINs. These are called phishing scams. ODHS will never send a text message to ask for your EBT card number or PIN.

How to request replacement SNAP benefits

If your Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits are stolen

You can request replacement benefits by contacting: 

Resources to help meet basic needs

 

House Majority Leader Julie Fahey will likely be the next speaker of the Oregon House following a private vote among Democratic lawmakers on Monday night.

Current Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, plans to continue serving through the 35-day short session, which begins Feb. 5. Democrats envision a formal vote to replace him as one of the last acts of the session.

Rayfield is running for attorney general, and some fellow Democrats were clamoring for a leader who would be dedicated to defending and expanding the party’s legislative majority without the distraction of a statewide campaign. The last House speaker, current Gov. Tina Kotek, initially planned to serve through her final short session but stepped down in early 2022 to focus on her campaign for governor.

Fahey of Eugene grew up in Illinois and graduated from the University of Notre Dame. She has focused largely on housing and homelessness during her time in the state House.

She beat out Rep. Tawna Sanchez, who represents Portland and is the chair of the powerful budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee. Legislative leadership positions often favor lawmakers who are good at fundraising and contribute large sums to the caucus’s political action committee.

Fahey raised more than $460,000 in 2022 and more than $112,000 last year. Her campaign committee has contributed more than $600,000 to Future PAC, the political action committee that works to elect Democrats to the state House, since she took office in 2017.

 

Oregon will receive ten-million-dollars to repair and replace charging stations for electric vehicles.

The money is coming from the National EV Infrastructure Formula Program that was part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The money will be used to repair broken EV chargers and upgrade charges, so more vehicles can plug in. Governor Tina Kotek says reliable vehicle charging infrastructure is a key part of the state’s climate goals.

 

A coalition of Republican lawmakers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California is working to finally say goodbye to the semi-annual tradition of moving the clocks back-and-forth by putting the states on permanent Standard Time.

Oregon Sen. Kim Thatcher, Washington Sen. Mike Padden,  California Assemblyman Tri Ta and Sen. Roger Niello and Idaho Rep. Joe Alferi formed a working group to propose legislation in their respective states. Each one is introducing a bill calling for the change.

Most polling shows Americans want to do away with the spring and fall time changes, but are split on whether to go with Daylight Saving Time or Standard time. The issue is that permanent Daylight Saving Time requires approval from Congress. Permanent Standard Time does not.

hatcher, from Keizer, plans to introduce SB 1548 when Oregon’s legislative session starts next month.

In Washington, Senate Bill 5795 received a public hearing on Tuesday in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee.

In California, Assembly Bill 1776 is awaiting a public hearing. 

Idaho’s standard time bill has been drafted and will move to a House committee in the next few days. Alfieri says he’s confident of its passage. 

 

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is restarting the process of creating the Climate Protection Program.   

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled the DEQ didn’t follow the correct notification process. The goal of the program is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 90 percent by 2050. DEQ says it disagrees with the Appeals Court ruling, but they’re accepting it to reduce the time a legal battle would take. DEQ will expand the notification process to meet the court’s objections. 

[…for the 5 people who are concerned about this. -Editor]

 

People who test positive for Covid-19 in California and Oregon are no longer expected to isolate for a set period of time — and those without symptoms don’t have to isolate at all, state policies now say.

People with symptoms can return to school or work once their symptoms are improving and they’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours, according to the state policies.

These two states — which have tended to take a more precautious approach to pandemic policies — are the first to break from federal guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends at least five days of isolation for anyone with Covid-19. Oregon changed its isolation policy in May when the Covid-19 public health emergency lifted, and California followed suit earlier this month.

Officials in both states say the changes reflect policy that’s evolving along with the pandemic.

The CDC recommends at least five days of isolation because people are likely to be most infectious during that time, and the science around that hasn’t changed. The recent order from the California health department notes that the potential infectious period spans from two days before through 10 days after symptoms or a positive test.

But experts broadly agree that easing isolation timeframes won’t significantly increase community transmission or severe outcomes — in part because the virus has been circulating at very high levels, even with more restrictive guidance in place.

Recent data from Oregon suggest the policy change has had minimal effect on virus trends. The state has seen a surge this winter, like the rest of the country, but Covid-19 hospitalization rates and emergency department visits have stayed below the national average, according to data from the CDC.

 

An Oregon man has been sentenced to federal prison for selling drugs to Portland high school students.

Jonathan Ash Clark, 43, of Portland, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and six months’ supervised release.

According to court documents, on September 28, 2022, officials at Cleveland High School in Portland contacted the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to request assistance locating a missing student. School officials told police the student was last seen with Clark who they suspected was involved in distributing controlled substances to students. To quickly locate the student who was possibly at risk, the responding PPB officers requested assistance from PPB’s Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit (NOC) and the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Interdiction Task Force (HIT).

Later the same day, NOC and HIT investigators located Clark with a group of students and he was arrested without incident. A search of Clark’s person and belongings returned small quantities of cocaine and MDMA and a digital scale. In an interview after his arrest, Clark admitted to knowingly selling drugs to high school students he referred to as “kids.”

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and PPB. It was prosecuted by Scott M. Kerin, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

 

PORTLAND, Ore.—A Portland man is facing federal charges today after he was caught transporting more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine on Interstate 5 near Tualatin, Oregon, announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.

Juan Manuel Berrelleza Leyva, 22, a Mexican national residing in Portland, has been charged by criminal complaint with conspiring to possess and possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin.

According to court documents, on January 21, 2024, law enforcement received information that a suspected drug trafficker, later determined to be Leyva, was transporting drugs on Interstate 5 toward Portland. That evening, investigators observed the suspect’s vehicle traveling north between Salem, Oregon, and Tualatin. After briefly failing to yield to the investigators’ attempts to initiate a traffic stop, Leyva, the vehicle’s driver and sole occupant, pulled over.

After a narcotics K-9 alerted to the vehicle, investigators searched it and located more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine concealed in a duffle bag, suitcase, and trash bag. Investigators also located and seized just over two pounds of heroin. Leyva admitted to entering the United States approximately seven months prior and being responsible for picking up drug shipments in other states and transporting them to the Portland area.

Leyva made his first appearance in federal court today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge and was ordered detained pending further court proceedings.

This case is being investigated jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Westside Interagency Narcotics Team (WIN). It is being prosecuted by Scott M. Kerin, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

WIN is a Washington County, Oregon-based High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force that includes members from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Beaverton and Hillsboro Police Departments, Oregon National Guard Counter Drug Program, DEA, FBI, and HSI.

A criminal complaint is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

A Polk County, Oregon man pleaded guilty today in federal court to multiple charges stemming from his involvement in a scheme to ship export-controlled firearm components, ammunition, and stolen credit cards to multiple foreign countries, including Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.

Alan Michael Placzkiewicz, 76, of Falls City, Oregon, pleaded guilty to one count each of illegally possessing ammunition as a convicted felon and delaying or destroying mail.

According to court documents, throughout his involvement in the illegal smuggling scheme, Placzkiewicz operated as a mule, receiving packages containing various items, and as directed by others, shipping them to addresses overseas. Placzkiewicz participated in the scheme knowingly and continued participating after being warned by multiple government officials about his reshipping activity.

In October 2020, Placzkiewicz received two packages in the mail at his residence in Falls City and, following his usual course of action when receiving similar packages, opened them, sent pictures of the items they contained through a portal online, repackaged the items, and shipped them to foreign addresses. In this instance, the packages contained four AR-15-style assault rifle stocks and 1,300 rounds of 6.5mm 139 grain bullets. Placzkiewicz relabeled both packages, declared them as containing “camping gear,” and mailed them to an individual in Moscow, Russia. Both packages were intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Later, in January 2021, Placzkiewicz received a package containing a credit card issued by a bank to an individual without their knowledge. Placzkiewicz repackaged the card as “office supplies” and reshipped it.

On August 2, 2022, Placzkiewicz was charged by criminal complaint with fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, and conspiracy to commit mail and bank fraud. Later, on May 2, 2023, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a seven-count indictment charging Placzkiewicz with conspiracy to commit mail and bank fraud, mail fraud, and unlawfully transferring, possessing, or using a means of identification.

Today, Placzkiewicz pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information, filed on November 15, 2023, charging him with illegally possessing ammunition as a convicted felon and delaying or destroying mail.

Illegally possessing ammunition as a convicted felon is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release. Delaying or destroying mail is punishable by up to one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, and five years’ supervised release.

As part of his plea agreement, Placzkiewicz has agreed to pay more than $117,000 in restitution to his victims as recommended by the government and ordered by the court. He will be sentenced on April 16, 2024.

This case was investigated by HSI with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and CBP. It is being prosecuted by Rachel K. Sowray, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

 

 An Albany woman got her life savings back Friday, recovering $122,000 after two months of worry and angst triggered by a failed cybertheft — and by two national banks who wouldn’t return the Oregon woman’s money, even weeks after the attempted scam collapsed.

Lorie McCartan’s savings vanished just after Thanksgiving when online thieves tried to steal the down payment for a house she planned to buy in her hometown of Albany.

Someone else bought the house after McCartan’s savings vanished. But with her money back in her bank account, she said she plans to find another place nearby to retire.

The savings came from McCartan’s three overseas tours with the U.S. Navy Reserve. McCartan retired to Albany, renting a place until she could buy a house where she could gather her extended family and celebrate the holidays.

It’s a devastating scam and an increasingly common one, according to the FBI, which says hackers steal hundreds of millions of dollars this way every year. Sometimes banks can stop the transfers when victims report attempted theft promptly.

 

Two people were rescued near Elk Island in Roseburg after their boat capsized Monday afternoon.

According to scanner reports there were three people in the boat when it turned over around 2:30 p.m.

The two were holding on to trees and shrubs in the river while first responders worked to get near them in the fast-moving water.

A Roseburg Fire pickup truck was parked on the west side of the river, to serve as an indicator for crews to approach the duo from the east side.

“I can’t hold on much longer,” a man yelled several times.

One of the people in the shrubs was able to use his cellphone to call a friend, who then handed the phone to first responders to open lines of communication.

A raft was launched just south of the two people and pulled up right next to them. The people were brought ashore.

The status of the third person was not immediately known.

 

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has revealed healthcare associated infections spiked at Asante’s RRMC during the same time a nurse allegedly replaced patient’s pain medication with tap water.

The Oregon Health Authority is not investigating the alleged drug diversion case at Asante at this time, but it is reviewing the situation.

The OHA says that it needs to review complaints at a facility, before determining whether or not it has jurisdiction to investigate.

But it has confirmed to us that RRMC saw dozens of infection cases from 2022 to 2023, that were acquired at Asante’s signature hospital.

The OHA records these central line infections over a span of years.

Asante acknowledged these healthcare associated infections, or HAIs, but the OHA is now providing the numbers that illustrate a spike.

From 2016 to 2021, the hospital would see one to three infections a year, save for 2020, the beginning of the pandemic, which had seven.

But in 2022, the OHA reports that Asante saw 15 infections and then in 2023, another 14.

These years coincide with a period of time when sources tell us a nurse was replacing ICU patient’s fentanyl pain medication, with non- sterile tap water, which may have caused multiple deaths from infections.

The OHA said it is taking this case seriously.

 

Winter storms across Oregon and Washington forced more than 70 blood drives to be canceled, according to the Red Cross Cascades Region.

The Red Cross stated in a press release that this “resulted in the loss of nearly 2,100 liters of blood.” In addition to these cancellations, road closures and icy conditions have made it difficult to transfer supplies to collection sites.

The Red Cross is also seeing an emergency blood shortage. Ventura said January is usually a slow month for donations but with the emergency shortage and the winter weather, hospitals are in desperate need for donations.

The Red Cross is urging the public to donate blood if they can. Ventura said he didn’t start donating until he was in college, due to a fear of needles. Now, he’s encouraging others to face their fears and help save lives. He said if there was ever a time to donate, it’s right now.

Contact your local Red Cross office for further information.

 

Weather is still wreaking havoc in some parts of Oregon.

The national weather service has many on the Oregon coast keeping their eyes on the skies. Heavy rain may result in landslides and debris flows, particularly in Curry County.

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) says that a flood-watch has been issued for southwestern Oregon.

The agency says that areas of steep terrain are especially susceptible to landslides and should be avoided when traveling.

Also, dangerous debris flows near the remnants of recent wildfires are especially dangerous and can carry branches and boulders.

 

The violent death of a baby boy was said to a bad day for a babysitting woman, according to the now grieving mother.

Amanda Nichols, mother of 10-month-old Owen Nichols of Coquille wept as she addressed defendant Hayley Steele at a sentencing Monday morning.

“Seventy-five months isn’t nearly enough to pay for killing our son, Owen. I left work that day trusting you to take care of my son,” said Amanda. “You took an innocent baby’s life because you were having a bad day.”

A judge sentenced Steele to 75 months in prison after she pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter in a deal with the state Friday.

The deal came in an effort to avoid a trial with DA Paul Frasier stating the parents hoped to avoid reliving what happened to Owen.

Owen died on November 16, 2022, from abusive head trauma caused by Steele who was hired to be his in-home babysitter, according to the DA’s Office.

An autopsy later labeled Owen’s death a homicide. Frasier says Steele admitted to police she was having a bad day prior to the events leading to Owen’s death.

Steele’s defense called Owen’s death a very horrible accident.

Manslaughter 2, for which Steele was convicted, is a lesser charge than manslaughter 1.

Because it is a Measure 11 offense, it carries a minimum sentence of 75 months.

After her sentence, Steele must undergo 36 months of post-prison supervision.

 

Two Southern Oregon University students have been arrested for vandalizing the Chabad Jewish Center in December. 

According to a news release from the Ashland Police Department, all three people involved have been identified as SOU students. On Dec. 14, the three of them approached the center while one of them threw eggs at it and yelled, “Heil Hitler.” 

An 18-year-old, Zachary Demarest, has been identified as the one throwing the eggs and shouting the praise for Hitler. Demarest is from Corvallis. 

Another 18-year-old, Jacob Wilhelm, has also been identified and arrested. The third person in the video “(has been) identified, but is not implicated in the commission of a crime, and is therefore not being named.”

“All three people were, at the time of the incident, students at Southern Oregon University. As such they left the area for winter break shortly after this incident was reported. The two students charged are no longer enrolled at SOU,” the release said. “APD detectives continued this investigation when the new term started, and students returned to campus.”

Demarest was told to turn himself in, and he did so Friday, the release said. He is facing charges of third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree bias crime. 

“Wilhelm was contacted and charged with Bias Crime 2nd Degree and Criminal Mischief 3rd Degree via a misdemeanor criminal citation,” the release said. “…Wilhelm’s involvement in this incident consisted of him encouraging Demarest’s criminal behavior, which makes him responsible as a co-conspirator.”

A court date for Wilhelm has been set for Feb. 7, 2024. 

 

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and the Oregon Health Authority is reminding people to get screened for cervical cancer and to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

The OHA says as many as 93 percent of cervical cancers could be prevented by cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination. These procedures can help prevent cervical cancer or detect it early.

Cervical cancer screening is available free of charge for individuals without insurance through ScreenWise, an OHA program. Information on becoming a ScreenWise patient can be found at this link or by calling (877) 255-7070.

 

The winter weather last week set a record for health-related calls to Portland’s 911.

There were more than 500 calls a day from Wednesday through Friday, when temperatures began to warm up. Those were the busiest days since the deadly Heat Dome in 2021. Injuries from falls also spiked. On Saturday, there were 202 emergency department and urgent care visits for falls. On a typical winter day, there are about 40 visits for falls.

 

The extremely cold weather last week caused heavy ice to form around Multnomah Falls.

The lodge remains closed, because water cascading over the pedestrian areas froze. The Historic Columbia River Highway is also closed because of snowdrifts, trees and rocks that fell onto the highway. Trails in the Gorge are covered in ice. The U.S. Forest Service says there’s no estimate for when the Lodge or the Highway will reopen.

 

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t given up hope on getting voter support to build a new larger jail.

This week it released a video, focusing on the stresses the criminal justice system faces with limited jail space.

It goes over the current lack of space in the county jail, which it says has major ramifications on the community as a whole.

It says that the current county jail in downtown Medford was built in 1981 and designed to hold 176 inmates.

However, it currently holds 300 inmates, and the county says the structure doesn’t allow for expansion.

The lengthy video features different sources from law enforcement, judges and more.

Multiple sources explain that many inmates are struggling with addiction and mental illness but say that as many as 11 individuals are released early each day of the year, because of overcrowding.

This doesn’t allow for substantial treatment and Sheriff Nathan Sickler says that it weakens their ability to deter people from criminal activity.

This isn’t the first time that the JCSO has brought up jail overcrowding as an issue. Back in May 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Sheriff Sickler and County Commissioners put a new larger jail on the ballot.

The effort was rejected by voters, with roughly 70% voting no.

 

Oregon’s Indigenous tribes are being compensated as part of a multi-million-dollar opioid settlement.

Oregon’s nine Native American tribes are getting large chunks of money from the state. The money’s coming to them as a result of the opioid crisis according to the Oregonian.

The paper says the state has decided to allocate 30% of the state’s $325 million opioid settlement specifically to the tribes.

According to the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, the opioid epidemic has hit Oregon native tribes far harder than the rest of the state. Oregon Native Americans die of overdoses two and a half times the rate of Oregon as a whole. It also says since 2020 overdose deaths have more than doubled in Oregon.

The tribes will now get $44 million collectively from the state according to the paper.

 

A Chinese billionaire and a California timber family have become among the largest private landowners in the U.S. following major purchases of Oregon forests. 

Those findings come from The Land Report, a magazine that details annually the top 100 private landowners in the U.S. Its most recent report was published Jan. 9. 

The magazine’s research team found that Sierra Pacific Industries’ 2021 acquisition of 175,000 acres of forestland and mills, through its buyout of a family-owned timber company in Douglas County, made the Redding, California, based Emmerson Family the largest private landowner in the U.S. The family, which owns Sierra Pacific, has 2.4 million acres of forests logged for timber in Oregon, California and Washington. 

The report also found that a Chinese billionaire and entrepreneur, Tianqiao Chen, became the second largest foreign owner of U.S. land following the purchase, through his investment company, of nearly 200,000 acres of forestland in Klamath and Deschutes counties nearly a decade ago. The Irving family of Canada is the largest foreign landowner, with more than 1.2 million acres of timberland in Maine. 

Chen’s fortune comes from an online gaming company he founded in 1999 called Shanda Interactive Entertainment. 

Chen’s stake in Oregon has drawn the ire of U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, an Oregon Republican, who expressed concern over Chen’s membership in the Chinese Communist Party. 

Chavez-DeRemer is among several members of Congress who have proposed legislation during the last year that would limit the purchase of U.S. land by foreigners, especially from China. 

Chen and his investment company said in a news release Tuesday that they did not try to hide the purchase of Oregon land. The company’s communications director, Jason Reindorp, said in an email to the Capital Chronicle that they asked the U.S. Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment to review the purchase before it was made.

 

Democratic Oregon Congressman Ron Wyden is announcing a bipartisan deal to expand the child tax credit and create a series of tax breaks for businesses.

The deal between Wyden and Missouri Republican Jason Smith ends months of negotiating. It will enhance refundable child tax credits to try to provide relief to struggling families and those with multiple children. It’ll also raise the tax credit’s refundable cap and adjust it for inflation.

In a statement, Smith said American families will benefit from this agreement that provides greater tax relief and creates jobs. Wyden said fifteen million kids from low-income families will now be better off because of this deal.

 

Oregonians who lost food purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits due to the recent winter storms and power outages are encouraged to request replacement benefits from the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS).

Households who receive SNAP who lost or disposed of food that was unsafe to eat due to these events can request that replacement benefits be issued for the cost of the lost food. The maximum amount that can be reimbursed is the normal monthly benefit for the household.  

Replacement benefits must be requested within 10 calendar days of the food loss by:

Once approved, replacement benefits are added to the households’ existing Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.

 
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