The Tulare County Sheriff’s Tactical Enforcement Personnel Team (S.T.E.P.) Marijuana Suppression Program has been working a number of details this week. Numerous search warrants and 15 arrests have been made. 25,567 plants have been eradicated and additional sites are still pending.
“Marijuana season is in full force and we are doing everything we can to keep up with the shifting demand. In the past we have seen more gardens in our hills and mountainous areas. With the cartels hiding behind the medical marijuana sites, we are now finding more on the valley floor in the middle of rural communities” commented Lt. Tom Sigley, commander for the Narcotics Bureau.
Below are some details regarding the cases worked this week in Tulare County:
Case # 11-9855, 42800 block of Road 144, Orosi
7-25-2011, 1513 hours
Orosi Patrol Deputies attempted to located a subject who had an outstanding warrant. Upon arrival at the location marijuana plants were seen growing taller that the structure that was in place to obstruct view. STEP team responded and took over the investigation. Nine subjects were arrested on various charges as they were on scene processing marijuana. The processed marijuana, plants and other items were seized as evidence.
Case # 11-9822, 1000 block of Holmes, Lindsay
7-25-11, 1100 hours STEP personnel were requested to assist in serving an arrest warrant for a homicide suspect. Upon making contact and arresting the suspect a marijuana garden was located 123 plants were eradicated.
Case # 11-60798 Woodlake
STEP personnel were conducting a follow-up on a compliance check for a medicinal marijuana recommend site. Upon arrival subjects attempted to flee the scene. Two subjects were arrested and 178 plants were eradicated.
Case #11-60784, Ave 100 and Road 248, Terra Bella
On 7/26/11 at 0700 hrs Members of S.T.E.P., Sheriff’s Eradication Team, Narcotics and Gang units responded to an olive orchard in the 10000 block of Rd. 248 in Terra Bella to serve a search warrant in regards to reports of marijuana cultivation. Upon arrival detectives contacted four suspects. Approximately 4,225 marijuana plants were located growing in 21 separate enclosures hidden among the olive trees. Several pounds of processed marijuana were also located. Most of the enclosures contained medical marijuana recommendations however they were over the allowed counts. It was also found that some of the recommendation holders did not know marijuana was being grown at that location under their name. Several contacted later admitted being paid for the use of their recommendation at that location and advised they had never smoked marijuana.
Suspects, Leonicio Gonzalez, Omar Gonzalez and Fidel Lopez had medical recommendation cards however the total plant count was above what was allowed for their medical needs, several admitted to selling their excess marijuana to dispensaries for cash. Additionally Juan Gonzalez and Pedro Martinez were being paid to tend the plants. No person except the recommendation holder or their primary care provider can tend medical marijuana. A paid gardener does not qualify as a primary care provider.
It has been an ongoing problem that persons are obtaining medical marijuana recommends from doctors who allow them to grow plants in excess of their medical needs. Growers then sell their excess marijuana to dispensaries or directly to buyers on the street. In an effort to deal with drug dealers hiding behind California Medical marijuana laws staff from several Tulare County agencies responded to assist. Representatives from R.M.A. Code Compliance, Environmental Health, Ag. Commissioner and Animal Control responded to check for compliance with their areas of responsibility. The Ag Commissioners office removed several containers of chemicals utilized on and around the marijuana. When officers arrived on the property they found a total of 23 dogs running loose and chained on the property. Several additional were found dead, one still chained to a tree
The dogs were all malnourished and in generally poor condition physical. All animals on the property were taken by animal control. All suspects will be charged with Cruelty to animals in addition to the cultivation and sale of marijuana charges. All marijuana at the location was eradicated and destroyed. The marijuana destroyed had a total weight of 20,800 pounds. It needs to be noted that all parts of a marijuana plant can be utilized to produce, not only bud, but marijuana concentrate, commonly called “Honey Oil” through a chemical extraction process. If allowed to mature to harvest the marijuana plants in this case would produce in excess of 4,225 pounds of processed marijuana bud with a street value in excess of $12,675,000
It has been an ongoing problem that drug trafficking organizations are paying people to obtain medical marijuana recommends from doctors who then allow them to grow plants in excess of their stated medical needs. Growers then sell the marijuana to dispensaries or directly to buyers on the street.
Case #11-60873, Tule River Indian Reservation
On 7/28/11 detectives from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department S.T.E.P. unit, Narcotics Unit and Agents from DOJ/ C.A.M.P. responded to a wilderness area on the Tule River Indian Reservation near Bond Creek in regards to a large marijuana garden. This garden had been located on a routine over flight earlier in the month. The marijuana was planted among native vegetation and under trees in an attempt to camouflage it from the air and any passers-by.
Suspects in the grow site fled into heavy brush and thick forest surrounding the location as officers approached. A search of the immediate area was conducted with negative results. Detectives found a sophisticated growing operation utilizing drip irrigation. The stream had been dammed and diverted to provide water for the grow site.
An extensive campsite was found and processed for evidence. A total of 10,249 marijuana plants were eradicated from the site. If allowed to grow to maturity these plants would have produced in excess of 10,249 pounds of processed bud. If sold to dispensaries or on the streets the total value of the crop would be in excess of $30,747,000. However it needs to be noted that all parts of a mature marijuana plant can be utilized to produce a marijuana concentrate, known as Honey Oil, this process and the ability to use the entire plant greatly increases the value of the marijuana at the site.
Case #11-60787, Shade Quarter Mountain
On 7/28/11 detectives from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department S.T.E.P. unit, Sheriffs Eradication Team and Agents from DOJ/ C.A.M.P. responded to a wilderness area on Shade Quarter Mountain in regards to a large marijuana grow site. This grow site had been located on a routine over flight earlier in the month. The marijuana was planted among native vegetation and under trees in an attempt to camouflage it from the air.
A total of 10,729 marijuana plants were eradicated from the site. If allowed to grow to maturity these plants would have produced in excess of 10,792 pounds of processed bud. If sold to dispensaries or on the streets the total value of the crop would be in excess of $43,168,000. However it needs to be noted that all parts of a mature marijuana plant can be utilized to produce a marijuana concentrate, known as Honey Oil, this process and the ability to use the entire plant greatly increases the value of the marijuana at the site.
Photographs from these cases will be posted on the Sheriff’s Flicker site for a limited time: http://www.flickr.com/people/tularecountysheriff/ Profile page
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tularecountysheriff/sets/72157627311072704/ Marijuana Suppression Set
Video interviews with Lt. Tom Sigley, AG Commissioner and Animal Control as well as scene footage can be viewed on the Tulare County Sheriff YouTube Channel at: http://www.youtube.com/TulareCountySheriff
Follow our news updates on twitter at Tulare Sheriff: http://twitter.com/#!/tularesheriff
If anyone has additional information on these cases or additional information on non-emergency suspicious activity or crimes, they are encouraged to call our non-emergency line at 1-800-808-0488.
You may also use the Sheriff’s anonymous Tip Now program and call, send a text to 559-725-4194 or email email@example.com .
Jose Ramirez, age 29 of Orosi
Erik Hortiz, age 21 of Delano
Rodolfo Lozano Galvez, age 24 of Moreno Valley
Carlos Manuel Deniz, age 22 of Perris
Martin Huerta age 25, of Orosi
Javier Garcia, age 20 of Delano
Fernando Alvarado , age 25 of Delano
Jose Chavez, age 25 of Perris
Jesus Olivares, Age 31 of Orosi
S1-Leonicio Gonzalez, 62 yoa, Delano - Charged with 11358 H&S, 597 PC
S2-Omar Gonzalez, 24 yoa, Delano - Charged with 11358 H&S, 11359 H&S, 597 PC
S3-Juan Gonzalez, 50 yoa, Visalia - Charged with 11358 H&S, 597 PC
S4-Fidel Lopez, 59 yoa, Visalia - Charged with 11358 H&S, 597 PC, INS Hold
S5-Pedro Martinez 44 yoa, Terra Bella - Charged with 11358 H&S, 597 PC, INS Hold
Salvador Garcia 21 yoa Woodlake –charged with 11358
Jeronimo Ayala 26 yoa Woodlake- charged with 11358
Elias Alberto Zurita Ramos, age 23 from Lindsay