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By Brandon Cline

Police complete sting operation


August 23, 2017

The Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) made several arrests in a four-day span between Aug. 10 and Aug. 14, including a sting operation that centered around the illegal purchasing of huckleberries.

According to a press release, the KCSO began an investigation on Aug. 10 that involved the illegal purchasing of huckleberries by Leslie Blankenship, 83. In Washington State, it is against the law to sell or purchase huckleberries prior to Aug. 14, with or without a Specialized Forest Product Permit.

With assistance from the U.S. Forest Service, the KCSO caught Blankenship buying huckleberries from undercover agents at his place of business on Aug. 10. Probable cause was thereby established to inspect and seize Blankenship’s business records in regards to the illegal purchase of huckleberries, as well as seize the huckleberries at Blankenship’s business.

On Aug. 12, Blankenship allegedly refused to show his business records to law enforcement and was arrested for obstructing law enforcement, a gross misdemeanor.

On the morning of Aug. 13, deputies executed a search warrant at Blankenship’s business, and seized written documents of the huckleberry purchases, weight scales, a cash register, and 2,112 pounds of illegally purchased huckleberries. The KCSO says that the estimated retail value of the seized huckleberries is roughly $42,240.

The investigation is still ongoing, and Blankenship has been charged with several class C felony charges.

On Aug. 10, KCSO deputies executed a search warrant at a residence in Appleton in regards to an ongoing investigation regarding burglary, theft and trafficking of stolen property.

The suspect, Arthur Smith, 37, was not at the residence at the time. While law enforcement officials were still at the house, Chief Criminal Deputy Mike Kallio and Deputy Dwayne Matulovich spotted a vehicle at the intersection of Appleton Road and Canyon Road that matched the description of the car Smith was supposed to be driving.

Kallio made contact with the vehicle and found that Smith was indeed operating the vehicle. Kallio placed Smith under arrest, and he was booked at the Klickitat County Jail on charges of possession of a stolen firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree, and trafficking in stolen property in the second degree.

On Aug. 11, a stolen vehicle was reported in Maryhill. The investigation led to the vehicle being recovered in Celilo Park, where KCSO Sergeant Joe Riggers discovered a stolen 28-foot camp trailer at Peach Beach RV Park. The suspect, 34-year-old Amanda Strother, returned to the RV park and was taken into custody.

The vehicle Strother was driving had been stolen from Portland, and in the trailer multiple stolen generators and a stolen chainsaw were located. According to a press release, the KCSO said that the items appear to be from a commercial burglary in Roseburg, Oregon.

A male suspect, 38-year-old Thomas Castiglione, is still being sought in connection with the case. Both suspects are attached to crimes in Wasco County, Multnomah County, Roseburg, La Pine and The Dalles. More stolen vehicles were recovered in other jurisdictions linked to the suspects.

Strother was arrested and booked on charges of possession of stolen property in the first degree, and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The investigation is ongoing.


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