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
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.