Fish and Game leads multi-agency pot garden raid
A raid on a marijuana garden in the Tehama County Wildlife area, east of Red Bluff, cut down $32 million in pot plants on Friday.
The surprise raid began just after midnight when law enforcement entered the sleeping area of the garden's cultivators where they caught and arrested Guillermo Cruz Lopez, 22, of Chiapas, Mexico, said Fish and Game Warden Scott Williams.
A second suspect escaped capture.
"Entering the sleeping area first is the most effective way of apprehending suspects in such remote and mountainous conditions," Williams said.
Wardens from the Department of Fish and Game, Tehama County Sheriff's deputies and an agent from the Bureau of Land Management, made the raid on the garden and eradicated 8,000 marijuana plants and seized two 9 mm pistols, Fish and Game reported.
Lopez was booked into the Tehama County Jail on suspicion of cultivating marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, and unlawful activities in a state wildlife area.
Williams said Lopez could be facing additional charges related to illegal water diversion, pollution and other environmental damage.
"The growers had constructed a cistern for the application of chemical
fertilizers or pesticides through the irrigation system," the warden said. "This application method is very dangerous to both wildlife and people who have no idea the water in the pipes is contaminated with hazardous chemicals."
Williams reported the investigation into the pot garden began last fall when a deer hunter reported seeing a harvested marijuana garden in the Tehama County Wildlife area.
"We investigated the abandoned, harvested garden and found gardening equipment left behind. We began observing the area over the course of several months starting in March and were able to locate supply drop locations and map out the garden's infrastructure. Garden workers were also observed tending to the marijuana and retrieving supplies," he stated.
Ongoing surveillance indicated increased activity within the garden over the past week, leading the wardens to believe that harvesting had started taking place and processed marijuana was already being removed from the site for distribution.
"We can't emphasize enough the danger these gardens are to the community. The gardeners are usually armed and the chemicals they use are horribly dangerous to the environment, wildlife, and to the drinking water supply," Williams said.