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Bob Dale says he's just the landlord and knew nothing about crimes on his property

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - Robert Dale, 64, stands in front of one of the greenhouses police raided on his property. The structure is full of weeds, not marijuana. However, other homes Dale owned had major ongoing grow operations he claims he was unaware of.

Robert Dale says his rights have been violated. When authorities named him as one of the leaders in an alleged Chinese drug cartel selling drugs through Central Oregon, Dale feels he's already been convicted in the court of public opinion.

"My face will always be on the wall of shame," said Dale. "What I'm accused of I am not guilty of."

Arresting agencies last week charged Dale, 64, of Madras, with unlawful manufacturing, delivery and possession of marijuana, as well as unlawful possession of firearms.

"They said I was a felon in possession of a firearm," said Dale, "when I've never even been accused of a felony."

Police arrested Dale at his home on Ford Lane on Tuesday morning, June 14 as part of a coordinated raid on six properties. Dale owns four of the six properties with his family members or with a business entity. After a two-year investigation, law enforcement claims Dale lead an organization of largely Chinese business people and laborers who illegally grew, processed and shipped tons of marijuana.

While Dale says he is innocent of those charges, Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Director Kent Vander Kamp believes he has enough evidence to make a case that Dale is "the head of the snake" of the local operation.

Dale has long been an advocate for cultivating hemp. His significant other is a woman from China who has been in the restaurant business for three decades. Through her, people from China approached Dale asking for access to land to grow hemp.

He says they showed him their permits for growing hemp.

"I had no reason not to believe them because I saw their hemp licenses," Dale said. As the first growers showed success, more growers followed.

Dale says when he saw irregularities he addressed them. Investigating problems with the septic system at one of his four-bedroom homes, Dale found the rec room had been turned into a dorm with 15 beds. "I didn't want a labor camp," said Dale. "I told them to get out, right now, or I'd move their stuff out."

Another one of his rentals, a trailer home, had six beds, more than the home could accommodate. Dale didn't question the influx of Chinese labor, he said.

"The Chinese culture is tight," he said. "When they need workers they're going to recruit from people they know, people who work in their restaurants."

Dale says if the law enforcement suspected illegal activity, he says they only had to ask and he would have willingly helped them investigate.

Instead, police arrested Dale, froze his accounts, and took some of the essential oils he sells. He spent 17 hours in jail and posted $6,000 bond (10% of the court-set $60,000 bail), but he worries most about his damaged reputation.

After all this clears, Dale says, he'll sell his property and move away.

"At the end of the day," Dale said, "an honest man's pillow is his peace of mind."

The court will ultimately decide which story wins out: Dale's version of the facts, or law enforcement's.

Dale's first court date is July 7.

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