Custody dispute leads deputies to pot grow, chop shop
Four people were arrested Monday night after Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of a custody dispute and discovered a large marijuana garden and a chop shop at a Strathmore home.
The Sheriff’s Department reports that at approximately 7:30 p.m., deputies from the Porterville substation responded to the 19200 block of Road 236 for reports of someone brandishing a gun during an argument over custody and visitation.
Authorities say that 19-year-old Ricardo Nunez of Strathmore, pointed a handgun at the mother of his three children, ages 5 months to 1 year old, during the dispute.
During the investigation, deputies reportedly found a large outdoor marijuana grow site and a chop shop at the property.
The Sheriff’s Department reports that most of the plants had been previously harvested.
Deputies pulled 50 mature marijuana plants and seized about 90 pounds of fully processed marijuana packaged for sales, scales, drug packaging materials, methamphetamine packaged for sales, two loaded guns, a stolen car and numerous other stolen car parts.
They also located five children between the ages of 5 months and 7 years old living in “deplorable” conditions within the home, according to reports.
As a result of the living conditions and illegal activity, all five children were removed from the home and placed in foster care by Child Welfare Services.
Nunez was arrested along with his father, Natividad Nunez-Arteaga, 44, Benjamin Valdez, 28 and Pedro Villalobos-Meraz, 30.
All were booked on various charges including child endangerment, cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of methamphetamine for sale, possession of a firearm while committing a felony, possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen vehicle parts, operating a stolen vehicle chop shop and maintaining a location for unlawful activities.
The case is under investigation by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol.