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California Department of Fish and Game Raids Tehama County Grow Operation

July 30, 2010

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), with support from two other agencies, raided an illegal marijuana garden in Tehama Wildlife Area (TWA) early this morning. Eight thousand marijuana plants were eradicated with an estimated value of $24-32 million. Two 9 mm pistols were recovered from the garden.

Warden Scott Williams, DFG's lead investigator in the operation, headed a team of five game wardens supported by one Special Agent from the Bureau of Land Management and six deputies from the Tehama County Sheriff's Department.

The raid began around 12 a.m. today. A surprise nighttime raid of a pot garden's sleeping area is the most effective way of apprehending suspects in such remote and mountainous conditions. Wardens arrested one suspect, Guillermo Cruz Lopez, 23, of Chiapas, Mexico. A second suspect escaped capture.

Lopez will be charged with cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale (Health and Safety Code, sections 11358 and 11359) and unlawful activities in a state wildlife area (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550[b]). Additional charges will be filed for an illegal water diversion, pollution and other environmental damage. The growers had constructed a cistern for the application of chemical fertilizers or pesticides through the irrigation system. This application method is very dangerous to both wildlife and people who have no idea the water in the pipes is contaminated with chemicals.

TWA, a popular outdoor recreation and hunting area owned by DFG, is east of Red Bluff near the town of Paynes Creek. A hunter discovered and reported a harvested and abandoned marijuana garden in the Antelope Creek drainage during last fall's late season G-1 deer hunt. Game wardens investigated the site and found gardening equipment left behind. The carefully hidden tools and a full irrigation system led them to believe the garden would be used again in the coming spring. DFG began regular surveillance of the garden in March 2010.

Working alongside a federal agent from the Bureau of Land Management and in coordination with Tehama County Sheriff's deputies, DFG wardens observed renewed activity in the garden. Over the course of several months, the wardens were able to locate supply drop locations and map out the garden's infrastructure. Garden workers were also observed tending to the marijuana and retrieving supplies.

Ongoing surveillance indicated increased activity within the garden over the past week, leading the wardens to believe that harvesting had started taking place and processed marijuana was already being removed from the site for distribution.

The tenders of marijuana gardens often possess firearms for personal protection and to illegally take wildlife both for food and to stop animals from damaging the plants. Illegal growers also possess firearms to defend themselves against law enforcement or an unwanted encounter with unwitting outdoor enthusiasts. This creates a grave danger to anyone using state lands set aside for the public's recreational use.


 


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