DEA Foils Indoor Marijuana Grow Operation
JUL 22 -(RIVERSIDE) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum and United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien announced the arrest of four individuals and the seizure of 5,600 marijuana plants and approximately $15,000 in U.S. Currency from five homes in San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties as part of an investigation into clandestine indoor marijuana grow operations. Today’s arrests and seizures are the result of a year-long investigation that has led to the discovery and dismantling of 33 clandestine indoor marijuana grow operations and the seizure of more than 19,000 marijuana plants.
“Drug traffickers are using sophisticated equipment and measures to transform their seemingly quiet suburban homes into illicit marijuana grow operations,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum. “These lucrative illegal operations can function with little scrutiny which makes them attractive to the criminal element, but put our communities in harm’s way. As these drug trafficking organizations develop more complex methods of concealing their activities, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to seek them out and dismantle their operations.”
Law enforcement officers from the Riverside Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the DEA served search warrants at eight single-family residences, resulting in the seizure of five indoor grows and 5,600 marijuana plants. Each of the indoor grows were similar in construction and were bypassing local utility meters and stealing electricity to support the growing operations. Entire houses were converted into marijuana grow operations. For example, carpets throughout the house were pulled up and stored in a walk-in closet; holes were cut through floors, ceilings, walls, and doors to accommodate electrical wires, water lines, and ventilation duct work; every room contained either growing marijuana plants or, in the case of closets and bathrooms, light ballasts, extra chemical supplies, and fertilizer; windows had drywall covering them on the inside, as did any sliding glass doors. Most of the homes identified in this investigation were located in new construction areas and were purchased for $500,000-$800,000.
“These sophisticated growing operations pose an extreme hazard to our neighborhoods with their dangerous electrical wiring and changes made to the house infrastructure,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “In addition, any large narcotics operation invites violence, which further endangers families in these suburban communities.”
Each house was capable of generating, based on average plant counts found during the execution of search warrants, approximately $3,000,000 a year. Based upon the number of clandestine indoor grows identified in this investigation, it is estimated these growing operations had the potential to generate more than $60 million annually in illegal drug proceeds.
Search warrants were conducted at the following residences today:
Those arrested today:
The defendants are charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to manufacture 1000 or more marijuana plants, a charged that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation in close coordination with counterparts from the West County Narcotics Task Force, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Internal Revenue Service, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside Police Department and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Those arrested today will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California and are expected to make their initial court appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
***Photos available on www.dea.gov and upon request***