- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 25, 2003

FRONT ROYAL, Va. (AP) - Kenneth Older Kratz’s driver’s license has been staring Warren County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Allen Sibert in the face for 19 months.

It was a constant reminder that one suspect in the largest indoor marijuana bust in Northwest Virginia’s Regional Drug Task Force history was on the run.

But Mr. Kratz’s running days have ended in Canada. Lt. Sibert, in charge of the Front Royal-Warren County task force contingent, said Mr. Kratz has been arrested in Hartington, Ontario, and is being held in the Hartington Jail. Hartington is northwest of Kingston, Ontario, and within about 40 miles of the U.S. border and Interstate 81.

Lt. Sibert said law enforcement officers from Warren County and possibly the FBI will travel to Canada to bring Mr. Kratz back to the United States. He also said Mr. Kratz notified authorities that he plans to fight extradition.

Mr. Kratz, 38, and his wife, Melissa Dawn Kratz, 29, were arrested in March 2001 after authorities seized more than $500,000 worth of marijuana and heroin from their home at 23 Red Haven Lane in Chester Gap.

The couple’s scheme included a buried storage trailer filled with high-tech lighting and watering equipment to grow marijuana underground, according to police. Authorities have said Mr. Kratz had a storage shed behind his home with the trailer buried beneath, accessed through a trap door.

Melissa Kratz entered an agreement March 21, 2002 in Rappahannock County Circuit Court in which she pleaded guilty to five drug charges. Mr. Kratz also was scheduled to be tried March 21 of last year in Rappahannock County Circuit Court on six drug-related charges, but forfeited a $50,000 bond and walked away from a Northern Virginia drug treatment facility days before the trial.

Mr. Kratz faces a number of charges, including possession of heroin, manufacturing marijuana not for his own use, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana with the intent to distribute and a firearm count.

Warren County Sheriff Lynn C. Armentrout, past task force chairman, has said the seized marijuana is known as “KW” on the street, which stands for “Killer Weed.” It’s known for its high level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the element that produces the drug’s effects, he added.

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