An ongoing investigation by the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency aimed at dismantling large illegal marijuana grows across the county continued with three raids this week, including one in Turlock that had some of the largest plants ever seized by the task force.
Over the course of two days, the task force raided three properties around Stanislaus County, confiscating more than 800 plants and arresting five individuals.
The raids began on Tuesday at a 40-acre chicken ranch in the 11000 block of Yosemite Boulevard, in Waterford. Drug agents discovered the outdoor marijuana grow in between two abandoned chicken barns. Investigators seized approximately 491 plants, which weighed 8,880 pounds. Agents estimated the street value, once the marijuana was harvested and processed, to be approximately $1.2 million. The location of this illegal marijuana grow was 400 feet from Waterford High School, according to the SDEA.
Arrested for cultivation at this location were: John Lee, 53, of Waterford; Kathy Lee, 53, of Waterford; Khon Phommavahn, 36, of Waterford; and Ricky Saeteurn, 39, of Waterford.
The task force continued the raids on Wednesday by serving two more search warrants. Narcotics agents started their morning by seizing an illegal marijuana grow of approximately 130 plants at a ranchette in the 5600 block of Hammett Road in Modesto. Arrested for cultivation at this location were: Patrick Fletcher, 21, of Salida, and Tyrone Garden, 43, of Salida.
Later on Wednesday the narcotics agents went to a ranch in the 1000 block of South Mitchell Road in Turlock to serve their third search warrant. Agents discovered an illegal outdoor marijuana grow in the middle of a 40-acre cornfield. The 187 marijuana plants were surrounded by a fence, in an attempt to conceal their location.
While the amount of plants at the Turlock location was nothing new for the agents, the sheer size was noteworthy. The agents described it like a Christmas tree lot.
“These were some of the biggest marijuana plants we have seen in several years,” said Modesto Police Sgt. Jason Grogan, who is a supervisor for the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency.
The plants had a weight of 12,000 pounds and an estimated street value of $750,000. No one was located at the property and no arrests were made.
“We will continue our mission of dismantling illegal drug operations to include the eradication of illegally possessed marijuana” Grogan said. “We appreciate the help and support from the community in aiding us in identifying these illegal grows.”
The Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency is a multi-agency narcotic task force, which is comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The goal of the task force is to identify, disrupt, and ultimately dismantle drug trafficking organizations operating within the Central Valley.
Police ask anyone who may have information on illegal drug violations to call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters can also text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637. Just type “TIP704” along with the message.