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Cross country medical marijuana bust rooted in Fresno County

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sheriff's deputies claim a cross country drug dealing operation worth millions has its roots in medical marijuana in Fresno County.

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According to investigators -- the marijuana was grown outside the city of Fresno under the guise of medicinal marijuana, but sold as high quality pot tracked to Tennessee, Utah, and Massachusetts.

The sheriff's department had been receiving numerous complaints about the potent and pungent odor coming from this large scale grow. They investigated and traveled several states away to bust the operation.

Sheriff's investigators say more than 46-hundred marijuana plants were growing in Fresno County by groups who have the legal right to grow pot. But detectives say they used their medical cards as a way to sell and traffic high grade marijuana across the country.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said, "We will not allow the medicinal collectives to be used as a cover and a sham to traffic marijuana across the United States and maybe even points beyond."

Federal prosecutors say there's a good reason for the long haul shipments, the pot is far more valuable outside the golden state.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eastern Dist. Mark Cullers said, "Marijuana in California sells for one thousand dollars a pound in the open market, whereas on the east coast it sells for about three thousand dollars a pound."

According to a federal affidavit, the operation was highly organized. The drugs were in vacuum packed bags that were heat sealed and double packed to contain the odor. And when sheriff's investigators stopped two suspects in Utah, the sheriff says the men transporting the drugs were also wearing army fatigues. Inside their vehicle, 180 pounds of marijuana.

Sheriff Mims adds, "Neither were a part of any military organization. However they wore the uniforms under the guise of should they pass law enforcement or ever be stopped by law enforcement, that they would be recognized as in the armed forces."

Undercover sheriff's deputies say they recovered millions of dollars in marijuana. The suspects grew Asian vegetables around the pot to disguise their cash crop. More than 32-hundred pounds of weed ready to hit the streets was instead set on fire and burned.

The suspects are all facing federal charges. They are being held in the Fresno County Jail. They are facing 10 to 20 years, to life if convicted. And their fines range from 4 to 8 million dollars.

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fresno, fresno county, crimetracker, marijuana, medical marijuana, sheriff margaret mims, fresno county sheriff department, local, sontaya rose
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