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Massive pot bust in the foothills above Fresno

Friday, June 29, 2012

Federal and local law enforcement spent the morning raiding marijuana groves in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Large areas of the foothills in and around Squaw Valley are covered in marijuana groves. The Fresno County Sheriff's Department is working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prosecutors to enforce the federal pot ban. Sheriff's officials have been investigating this particular property for several months.

Lt. Rick Ko said, "Our initial estimate in April was about 7800 plants, which translates into about $9 million."

On April first the growers were put on notice that sheriff's officials would be moving in to remove the plants.

The owner says he ignored that notice because it was from the sheriff's office, not federal authorities.

Thursday morning all of those plants were removed by sheriff's deputies who had obtained a federal warrant.

"There's probably a wide range of things that they're using it for, both sales and medicinal purposes. Those types of things come out in the investigation or after the cultivation is done. So we really can't determine that. There are medical recommendations there."

The property owner spoke exclusively to Action News. They gave us a tour of the property as the plants were being removed. He did not want to show his face -- but he says the 4-6 acre grow is part of a medical marijuana co-op.

"It was state stamped, I was doing it by the guidelines from the state of California."

He says he's not angry law enforcement shut him down. But he is angry at the state.

"The state shouldn't have sold me a license. They took my money giving me a state stamped license telling me I could do this."

He admits he's not even sure who tends to the plants or how they get paid. Investigators say they get around 10 calls per day for marijuana grow-related issues in the Squaw Valley area alone.

This bust is part of Operation Mercury which spans six Valley counties. Its goal is to send a message to growers that they will be shut down. And since investigators spotted more marijuana they will have more work to do as they clear those pot farms out soon.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
crimetracker, marijuana, drug bust, fresno county sheriff department, fresno county, local, rick montanez
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