Authorities estimate nearly $7 million in illegal drugs found west of Port Angeles

Cocaine, methamphetamine suspected

JOYCE — More than 400 pounds of tightly wrapped bricks of methamphetamine and cocaine were likely waiting for pick-up and a quick boat trip to Canada when area residents found the drugs in eight duffel bags on two Clallam County beaches, Undersheriff Ron Cameron said Thursday.

The $7 million haul, reported to authorities by separate individuals April 7 and April 11, was made public by the Sheriff’s Office late Wednesday afternoon following an initial investigation that included surveilling the beaches for a short time for someone to retrieve the bags.

As the days went on, the difficulty establishing the identity of a suspect or suspects connected to the drugs “pushed us to go ahead and make it public,” Cameron said Thursday.

Cameron said the hope is that residents west of the Salt Creek-Joyce area near a little-used section of state Highway 112 near where the drugs were found — currently closed to through traffic due to construction — noticed something that would help investigators determine who left bags in the open for all to see.

Field tests confirmed that nearly 60 pounds of methamphetamine and 2.6 pounds of cocaine were found in one duffel bag close to the water line April 7 and 342 pounds of methamphetamine in seven bags were found Sunday several miles west of the first find on higher ground.

Public asked

“Perhaps someone saw a suspicious vehicle in the Joyce area along state Route 112 or unusual boat traffic in the Strait west of Salt Creek-Tongue Point around those dates,” according to a press release Cameron issued late Wednesday afternoon.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol, which also provided a K9 unit; the FBI; Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Border Patrol Air and Marine Unit; the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Cameron speculated that the drugs were dropped off at the beach for transfer to Canada.

“That’s why RCMP is involved,” he said.

“Most drugs are heading north. The money goes south.

“I think there’s a high probability it was destined for Canada.”

Off a remote mountain road would be a more likely place for a drop point for local distribution for large quantities of drugs rather than a beach, he said.

“[Highway] 112 west of Salt Creek and particularly west of Joyce is so seldom traveled that now because it’s closed,” Cameron said.

“Not many people live in the area, but they will know what is suspicious.”

The same holds true for anyone on the water around the time the drugs were discovered.

“If someone’s hanging out there with no fishing rods around, that could be suspicious,” Cameron said.

“People notice those things, and kind of wonder what that guy is doing.

“We are just looking for any opportunity to build some leads.”

Go tot http://www.clallam.net/Sheriff/tip.html or call an unstaffed tip line at 360-417-2540 to leave information.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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