|Raids Reveal Fake Homes Filled with Marijuana Farm|
Posted by FoM on March 07, 2001 at 14:16:56 PT|
By Mike Geniella, The Press Democrat
Source: Press Democrat
About 120 drug agents early Tuesday fanned across the rugged backwoods of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, raiding 11 sophisticated, indoor marijuana growing operations, including some built to look like houses.
Authorities said there were no interior walls in the "fake homes," nor did the structures have such things as kitchens or bathrooms. Instead, the buildings contained thousands of marijuana plants flourishing under lights powered by diesel generators.
"Even though they look like houses, these are commercial buildings built specifically for growing marijuana indoors," said Gilbert Bruce, special agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency's San Francisco office.
At each site, agents found high-tech security systems, along with guns and ammunition, said Bruce, who oversaw Tuesday's raids near the communities of Laytonville, Hunt Ranch, Garberville and Redway.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Capt. Kevin Broin accompanied drug agents who drove up miles of rugged dirt roads to reach the six pot-growing structures that were camouflaged to look like houses.
"At first glance, they looked like any other rural home," Broin said. "A couple of them were two stories, and even had wrap-around porches."
But Broin said closer inspection revealed that the structures were never built with the intention of being occupied.
"There was nothing to them on the inside. There were just four walls and a lot of marijuana," he said.
Bruce said the structures were designed to elude detection by drug teams who often rely on aerial overflights to uncover large-scale marijuana growing operations.
"We've seen places like this before but never so many clustered in one region," he said.
Armed with federal warrants, teams of local, state and federal agents early Tuesday used two helicopters and a fleet of 4-wheel-drive vehicles to reach the remote pot-growing operations spread across sites in northern Mendocino and southern Humboldt counties.
The federal operation was dubbed "Emerald Triangle" in recognition of Mendocino, Humboldt and neighboring Trinity County having the dubious distinction of being the biggest marijuana producers in the state.
Targeted on Tuesday were at least three separate marijuana-growing sites responsible for "operating multi-stage marijuana production and distribution facilities in Northern California," Bruce said.
By mid-day, he said, agents had arrested three men, uprooted more than 14,000 pot plants and seized $206,000 in cash.
He said the raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation. He said a federal grand jury ultimately will review results of the investigation and return criminal indictments as necessary.
"We have the outline, but we're still not sure where the investigation will finally lead us," he said.
In this specific case, Mexican drug cartels are not suspected of being in control, Bruce said. In recent years, local authorities have been plagued by a rash of violent incidents involving armed Mexican nationals hired to guard illicit pot gardens on the North Coast.
"We believe the responsible people are all residents of the U.S.," Bruce said.
A multiagency task force including representatives of local sheriff's departments, the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, CHP, DEA, FBI and Internal Revenue Service have spent two years probing the suspected pot farms that were raided Tuesday.
Part of the investigation centers on suspected money laundering and the purchase of large tracts of remote North Coast land by unidentified individuals who subdivided the property with the specific intent of creating commercial indoor marijuana-growing sites.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tony Craver and Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis on Tuesday applauded the federal intervention.
"This is the kind of sophisticated drug operation that we can't properly investigate at the local level," Craver said.
Lewis said Humboldt authorities are routinely encountering more large-scale indoor marijuana growing operations, although not on the scale announced Tuesday.
He said Tuesday's raids uncovered information that led teams to two additional indoor pot-growing sites in southern Humboldt County.
Two brothers who live in Redway were among those arrested Tuesday for having ties to the pot-growing operations.
Shane and Terry Miller had $200,000 in cash in their possession at the time of their arrests Tuesday morning. Another Redway man, Zachary Stone, also was taken into custody at a separate residence. He had $6,000 in cash, Bruce said.
So far, the Millers and Stone face charges related to weapons and possession of marijuana for sale. Bruce said further arrests are expected.
You can reach Staff Writer Mike Geniella at: email@example.com
Note: 120 local, state, federal agents target 11 growing operations in Humboldt, Mendocino counties.
Marijuana Farms Funded With Meth Lab Proceeds
Patton of Pot - 60 Minutes II
CannabisNews Articles - Mendocino
Comment #2 posted by Sam W. Smith on March 09, 2001 at 06:24:07 PT:|
|In Amsterdam, the clandestine grow rooms are call `Anne Frank houses´ after the famed WWII hidden house of Anne Frank. Leave it to America to do things bigger and better. Just goes to show the ingenuity of the `criminal´ element. Wouldn´t legalization stop this sort of charade?|
[ Post Comment ]
Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on March 07, 2001 at 17:23:22 PT:|
|I suppose after this impressive bust the Feds will feel that they've turned the corner on stamping out marijuana in this millennium. It did not work in the last.|
[ Post Comment ]