During the week on September 18th the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department S.T.E.P. Unit completed three lengthy investigations in areas scattered around the county. These investigations resulted in the eradication of over 28,500 marijuana plants
The various operations are as follows:
1. Case # 11- 60667 - On 9/19/11 S.T.E.P. Detectives along with assisting personnel responded to two locations in the 21000 block of Rd. 252 near Lindsay for reported large scale marijuana cultivations. The investigation was initiated after local residents reported they were concerned for their safety because of the nearby marijuana grows. They reported suspicious vehicles coming and going at all hours of the day and night and gun shots being fired in the area on a regular basis. Upon arrival search warrants were served at both locations. The listed suspects were detained and questioned. It was quickly found that the two sites were connected and in fact run as one operation, a plant count at the locations found a total of 2,282 live marijuana plants, some of which were 15 feet in height. A check of the medical recommendations at the sites found multiple expired, fake, duplicate and in some cases triple copied. Several of the detained subjects stated they had never seen the recommend holders. Recommendation holders at the location were allowed 835 plants. Children's toys were found in and around the grow sites and processed marijuana was within easy reach of the children throughout the homes.
The marijuana plants at this location were in excess of 13 feet tall. From both locations a total of 15 dump truck loads of marijuana, weighing 35,200 pounds were removed for destruction.
It’s important to note that plants of this size yield more than the commonly accepted one to two pounds of processed bud per plant used for legal purposes. These plants would have easily yielded five or more pounds of bud per plant. In addition, the suspects were collecting trimmings commonly called “Shake”. In recent years suspects have begun the chemical processing of “shake” using butane fuel to extract and produce concentrated marijuana called “Honey Oil” which can then be smoked. This in effect makes all parts of the marijuana plant usable to produce several types of controlled substances. This ability generates huge profits for suspects.
Several of the listed suspects held medical marijuana recommends allowing them to grow enough medical marijuana to cover their current medical needs. All were found to be clearly over their recommended amounts. In addition, approximately 650 pounds of processed marijuana was packaged for sales and partially processed marijuana was discovered on the properties. This amount of marijuana was clearly in excess of the above listed suspects medical needs. Scales, packaging materials, pay/owe sheets, assault weapons, shotguns, rifles and handguns were found at the locations. A large amount of U.S. Currency was also seized.
The suspects were arrested and charged with cultivation of marijuana and possession for sales. The marijuana, bud if allowed to mature would have a street value in excess of $3,000 per plant
It is an ongoing problem that drug trafficking organizations and individuals are obtaining medical marijuana recommends from doctors who allow them to grow plants well in excess of their medical needs. The doctors who do this routinely tell these people that they can donate their excess marijuana back to a dispensary for cash.
A new twist on this issue is that large drug trafficking organizations with ties to Mexico are paying subjects to obtain medical recommendations. The group then makes copies and posts them in various grow locations around the valley. California law has no requirement for a medical marijuana grower to register their grow sites. This allows criminals to hide behind California’s medical marijuana laws and use a single recommendation at many different sites. Growers then sell their excess marijuana to buyers on the street, directly to dispensaries and out of state where profits are many times greater than in California. A typical medical marijuana user reportedly uses between 3 and 5 pounds of marijuana per year. This amount can be obtained from 2 to 5 marijuana plants.
S-1: Erick Magdaleno Arias 26 yoa, Lindsay, HS 11358. 58, 12276, PC 273A
S-2: Ana Magdaleno 24 yoa, Lindsay, PC 273A
S-3: Armando Valle 23 yoa, Lindsay, HS 11358
S-4: Carlos Arturo Gomez Lopez 29 yoa Lindsay, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-5: Noel Galvan Gomez 19 yoa-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-6: Carlos Deniz Chavez 23 yoa,-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-7: Manuel Salvador Patricio Sanchez 23 yoa,-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-8: Manuel Carlos Sanchez Mendoza 24 yoa,-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-9: Sandra Paniagua 33 yoa-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-10: Jose Corona 18 yoa-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-11: Adan Sierra Barajas 42 yoa-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-12:Eduardo Giovanni Garcia 21 yoa,-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
S-13: Jose Luis Rangel 19 yoa-Mexico, HS 11358 / INS Hold
2. On 9/20/11 S.T.E.P. Detectives responded to and eradicated 4,597 marijuana plants from a large garden site high in the mountains near Cholollo campground on the Tule River Indian Reservation. The marijuana plants at this location were heavily budded with each plant producing several pounds of bud per plant. No suspects were in the grow site at the time detectives arrived, however numerous items of evidence were collected. This case is still under investigation.
3. On 9/21/11 S.T.E.P. Detectives responded to and eradicated 21,647 marijuana plants from a large garden site high in the mountains above the Kern River. The marijuana plants at this location were camouflaged deep in the native vegetation to avoid aerial detection. The plants were completely budded, with some being processed and packaged for sale. Suspects fled the area as detectives entered the site. Detectives found that a small stream had been dammed and diverted to water the extensive grow site. Numerous chemical pesticides, fertilizers and rodent poisons were found scattered around the area. This case is still under investigation.
Photographs of the evidence seized on this case can be viewed on the Sheriff's Flikr page under the title Maijuana Detail 09-2011:
Video footage of the evidence seized on this case can be viewed on the Sheriff's YouTube channel under the title Marijuana Detail 09-23-11:
Additional video footage and interviews regarding marijuana suppression can be found at these links:
Undersheriff Dahl Cleek http://youtu.be/Vm0lHwsmwQM
Lieutenant Tom Sigley http://youtu.be/dihsxiUPXyg
Lieutenant Tom Sigley http://youtu.be/oH0K9c4kbLE
Supervisor Phil Cox http://youtu.be/wF2A6-3k7lQ
AG Commissioner http://youtu.be/nRM8Z55FQI0
Animal Control http://youtu.be/fRKXxHQTuAQ