Local

Pot farm busted in Devil's Den

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Local and federal authorities seized more than one million dollars' worth of marijuana plants Thursday in the South Valley. The bust happened on a one acre parcel of land south of Kettleman City, in an area known as the Devil's Den. The bust was all part of an initiative called Operation Mercury to help rural communities battle the budding issues of marijuana grows.

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In rural Kings County, out amongst thousands of acres of agriculture land, state and federal authorities uncovered a large marijuana grow along an area known as Devils Den.

"The problem used to be in the hills and it's now here in the Valley," said Dave Putnam, Kings County Assistant Sheriff.

Putnam credits collaboration between local and federal authorities during the last several months to the crackdown on illegal marijuana grows like the one on Thursday.

"Those were very mature plants ready for harvest. They were six to eight feet tall, many of them capable of producing three to five pounds of dried marijuana," Putnam said.

Once on scene, agents arrested two men on the property. A firearm was also found in the owner's possession.

"His statement to us was that he and nine other people were in some kind of conglomeration where they all had a California Compassionate Use Act marijuana cards," Putnam said about what the suspects told authorities about the grow.

Putnam says it's unknown what ties the men had and where the marijuana was headed to, but agents made some interesting finds inside the home.

"My narcotics agents tell me this is the patron saint of a lot of drug dealers. It's their symbol or idol for making money," Putnam said displaying a statue that was found in the make-shift dwelling.

Also on the property, authorities discovered several dogs including three young puppies. Animal control says the older dogs had been tied to a post and looked malnourished.

Putnam says a pot bust of this magnitude is rare for Kings County. Investigators are determined to stay one step ahead of the criminals as they crackdown on these illegal operations.

"We take the growing of marijuana seriously and we're going to aggressively eradicate it," Putnam said.

The suspects have been identified as Jonathan Meza of the Los Angeles area and Ramon Manjarrez of Sinaloa, Mexico. The two men are in custody at the Fresno County jail each facing a federal charge of cultivating marijuana.

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

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kettleman city, kings county, drug bust, crimetracker, marijuana, local
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