Most Viewed Stories
Marijuana season keeping TCSD busy
Numerous eradications in past 10 days
Tuesday’s marijuana eradication from the Bear Creek area above SCICON was just one of several during a 10-day period that resulted in the seizure of more than 25,000 marijuana plants and numerous firearms. The eradications took place between July 22 and July 31 on public and private lands throughout the foothill and valley areas of Tulare County.
Several of the operations done by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department S.T.E.P. Unit were conducted with the assistance of federal officers from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (B.L.M.) and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s C.E.R.T. program (Cannabis Eradication & Reclamation Teams). C.E.R.T. has replaced the state run C.A.M.P. program.
On Monday night, officers hiked through steep terrain into the garden sites where numerous plots were discovered within a half mile radius. Upon arrival, suspects fled into the surrounding area.
On Tuesday, officers continued with the eradication. Water from Bear Creek had been diverted into numerous ponding basins with a complete watering system in place to irrigate the plants — many of which were mature.
A processing center, trash piles and various chemicals were also located. Detectives tore down the diverted water basins, allowing them to return to the natural streams and creeks. Additional work will continue on the area to restore it to a natural state.
On July 24, detectives completed a several-months long investigation with search warrants in Three Rivers and in the 22000 block of Avenue 256 in Lindsay.
Upon arrival at both locations, detectives detained several people, including Enrique Ramos, 50 of Lindsay and Pedro Alvarez, 47 of Three Rivers.
Both locations were also out of compliance with state laws and local ordinances.
At the Three Rivers residence, officers seized 242 plants from a sophisticated indoor/outdoor grow, two rifles and four handguns. Alvarez was also charged with child endangerment, as a 9-year-old boy was staying at the residence. The guns wee placed in strategic locations around the house for easy access and a marijuana-processing area was set up in the kitchen.
All of the guns and marijuana were in easy access to the child. Substandard wiring was found in the large indoor grow area, prompting officers to call Edison officials and shutting off the power to the residence until repairs are made by the property owner.
At the Lindsay residence, officers seized 144 marijuana plants, three rifles and a handgun. Several suspects are still being sought for questioning.
On July 20, STEP detectives and the C.E.R.T. team conducted an eradication operation in the Three River Flume area.
The site had just been reported to the Sheriff’s department by area residents who routinely hike in the area.
Due to the danger of conflict between the armed growers and local residents, it was determined to eradicate the site as soon as possible rather than set up for a long term investigation, Sheriff officials reported. That afternoon, officers were flown into the large garden using a technique known as Short-Haul.
Upon arrival, detectives found a large spread-out grow site with more than 20,000 marijuana plants within sight of several homes.
As the helicopter approached the area, suspects fled into heavy brush, leaving behind a handgun and several types of ammunition, including assault-weapon calibers that were seized from several camp and processing areas.
The site was set up as a multi-stage grow, appeared to have been harvested several times and had marijuana plants in various stages, from seedlings to mature. Detectives also discovered that water had been diverted from the flume into several large man-made reservoirs to disperse to the grow site.
The extensive campsite and firearms were processed for evidence — with a total of 21,620 marijuana plants and 250 pounds of processed marijuana seized and removed from the site.
If allowed to grow to maturity, the plants would have produced more than 21,600 pounds — with a dispensary or street value of $65 million — of processed bud.
However, because all parts of a mature marijuana plant can be utilized to produce a marijuana concentrate known as Honey Oil, the process and the ability to use the entire plant greatly increases the value of the marijuana at the site. Also located were rat poison, various insecticides and fertilizers used to spray the plants.
The grow sites were spread between private and B.L.M. lands. A reclamation project will be planned by B.L.M. for clean-up on the federal lands after the marijuana season.
On July 20, S.T.E.P. detectives and the C.E.R.T. team conducted eradication operations in the area of the Eshom Towers on U.S. Forest service lands.
The marijuana plants were mature and appeared to have been harvested several times. A large camp and trash pile was located. It appeared the suspect had fled the garden site just before officers were flown into the location.
Detectives and federal officers removed trash, water hose, pesticides and fertilizers from the location and restored, as much as possible, natural streams and creeks which had been diverted by growers. Additional work will be done on the areas to restore it to a natural state after the marijuana growing season.
All of the cases are still under investigation by the TCSO S.T.E.P. Unit.