CALAVERAS COUNTY -- The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department arrested 23 people and seized 1,000 pounds of marijuana from about 1,500 plants from three illegal grow sites.
“It’s not your mom-and-pop typical type of a grow we’ve seen in years past in this county. These are folks coming from out of the area," Sheriff Rick DiBasilio said.
There were rows of marijuana plants.
“Just in this area alone, there’s probably 100 plants right in this area right now. And each one of these plants is gonna probably produce about a pound," the sheriff said, referencing one of the sites discovered by deputies that spanned three properties in the West Point area.
“We did some flyovers and located this grow, and the other grow up above us, and served a search warrant today," DiBasilio said.
An unrelated weed bust two weeks ago led investigators to Milpitas, which eventually led them back to these sites in Calaveras County.
“They’re tied to Asian gangs out of the Bay Area is what we’re finding," he said.
Heavily armed deputies in camouflage arrested 23 people, mostly for cultivation, along with the property owners, for illegally growing the plants.
There were designated areas inside the houses where countless buds were spread out or hung up to dry.
At each location, up to 10 workers slept in untidy, cramped areas where the majority of the home, housed marijuana, some in large jug containers, ready for sale.
“They’re shipping it back East more than likely, they could be shipping it out of the United States," DiBasilio said.
Deputies had been at the first location back in 2013 for illegal growing. But it didn’t put the property owner out of business or stop him from contaminating the area around his home.
"This is an illegal grow. You saw the pesticides, the human waste that’s being disposed of out onto the ground. It’s causing an environmental impact, more than anything else.”
“This is what you’re seeing in these drying rooms. They’ve graded without permit, they’ve cut trees without permit, the pesticides they’re using on their plants, it’s all gonna run down to the stream," DiBasilio said, pointing to a vast yard from the second property.
“There’s probably gonna be 100 pounds here. If you do the math, at $1,000 a pound here, you’re looking at $6 million and if it goes back East, it could go up higher, $3,000 to $4,000 per pound.”