MARCH 20 (RIVERSIDE, Calif.)–Federal and state authorities this morning arrested 10 defendants charged in a federal criminal complaint that accuses them of participating in a wide-ranging drug conspiracy that operated marijuana grow houses across Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Interior of sophisticated marijuana grow operation.
As part of the investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, authorities this morning arrested 10 out of 11 people named in the complaint and executed search warrants at 26 locations – which includes 15 grow houses – stretching from Arcadia to Corona to Fontana. During this morning’s operation, authorities seized more than $250,000 in cash, seven guns (including an assault rifle) and more than 8,000 marijuana plants.
A 124-page affidavit in support of the criminal complaint outlines an investigation into a narcotics trafficking ring allegedly led by Arcadia resident Raymond Lam. The drug trafficking organization purchased or leased single-family residences, which were converted to indoor farms with the sole purpose of growing marijuana. Each house contained industrial-size marijuana growing operations that contained, on average, 1,000 to 2,000 marijuana plants.
The marijuana grow houses exhibited identical arrangements that included specific types of hydroponic growing equipment and stolen electricity obtained through sophisticated bypasses of utility meters. After the marijuana was harvested, it was sold throughout California and across the United States. Previously during the two-year investigation, authorities shut down 15 grow houses and seized nearly 15,000 marijuana plants, nearly 1,000 pounds of harvested marijuana and four firearms.
The 11 defendants named in the criminal complaint filed in United States District Court in Riverside are charged with conspiracy to manufacture, to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. The 10 defendants arrested this morning are:
The final defendant named in the criminal complaint – Andy Tran, who used several aliases, including “Long Kim Tank,” 39, of Monterey Park, and allegedly was a top lieutenant to Raymond Lam – is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities.
Interior of marijuana grow house.
The criminal complaint outlines several seizures made during the investigation. For example, special agents with the DEA and officers with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant on Cedar Creek Road in Eastvale on February 10, 2012, when they discovered a residence that had been completely converted into a sophisticated marijuana grow house. Inside the residence, investigators found Camacho hiding under a hydroponic bin on the second floor of the residence. During the search, they seized more than 1,800 marijuana plants and more than 50 pounds of processed marijuana. There was a sophisticated electrical bypass system that was used to divert from the meter the electricity used to power the ballasts and lights to grow the marijuana plants.
In another search in Eastvale, this one on a residence on Bluebell Street in November 2012, authorities discovered that the entire residence had been converted into industrial-sized marijuana grow with 857 marijuana plants. Approximately 43 pounds of marijuana were found inside the residence. Two months ago, during a search of a residence on Village Meadow in Riverside, authorities discovered another industrial-sized marijuana grow that had 576 marijuana plants.
During this morning’s takedown, search warrants were executed at locations in Eastvale, Corona, Fontana, Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino, Diamond Bar, El Monte, Arcadia, Los Angeles (90015), Monterey Park, Walnut and Temple City.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The narcotics conspiracy charge in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of life – and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years – in federal prison.
The investigation into a drug trafficking organization allegedly run by Raymond Lam was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
The following agencies provided substantial assistance during this morning’s takedown: the Riverside Police Department; the El Monte Police Department; the Fontana Police Department; the Chino Police Department; IRS - Criminal Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the United States Marshals Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Los Angeles Police Department; and the Arcadia Police Department.