Multi-task force eradicates $200M marijuana field

May 30, 2014
Santa Paula News

Santa Paula Police joined with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Narcotics and Custody bureaus as well as the California National Guard in a multi-agency “weed whacker” eradication effort Friday that destroyed more than $200 million worth of marijuana found approximately 10 miles north of the Lake Piru area.

In all, more than 50,000 marijuana plants were found in the Los Padres National Forest according to VCSD Sgt Mike Horne, who issued the statement announcing the find, the “first large scale marijuana cultivation of the 2014 season.”

The field of marijuana, a stash of plants that Horne wrote, “stretched for over a mile and occupied several smaller side canyons,” was discovered during a marijuana reconnaissance flight in the canyons north of Lake Piru.

The marijuana cultivation was located in a canyon approximately 10 miles north of Lake Piru in the Los Padres National Forest. 

On May 23, the Sheriff’s Air Unit flew investigators from the VCSD Narcotics Bureau West County Street Team, VCSD Custody Bureau, SPPD and California National Guard Multi-Functional Counter Drug Task Force, to the site. 

According to SPPD Commander Ish Cordero, a Santa Paula Officer that is an assigned member of the VCSD Narcotics Bureau West County Street Team was present during the eradication operation.

Horne wrote that, “50,280 marijuana plants were eradicated with an estimated street value of over $201,000,000.”

Detectives also found that water had been diverted from several natural springs into hand-dug reservoirs. 

Horne noted, “Growers often add fertilizers to these reservoirs, using miles of irrigation hose to water multiple grow sites throughout the canyons. This exploitation of the watercourse prevents native plants from receiving water and is unsafe for animals or humans to drink.”

The task force found several hundred pounds of fertilizer as well as herbicides, rat poisons, and “mountains of trash... “

There were multiple grower campsites where investigators believe six to eight suspects were living. The suspects fled upon the arrival of investigators but a rifle was left behind at one campsite.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office believes such large-scale marijuana cultivations are connected to Mexican Cartels operating in California. 

And they can be dangerous: “We remind those using our county’s backcountry to be vigilant in watching for clandestine marijuana operations,” and Horne cautioned, “If you see irrigation hose, fertilizers, rustic campsites, or hikers without equipment in secluded areas, you may be in danger.”

Friday’s seizure was not a record-setter: In July 2011, Ventura County authorities seized 68,488 plants - $205 million worth of marijuana -growing in an area north of Ojai. 

The VCSD advises those that find themselves in such a secluded area and observes anything suspicous to “quietly leave the area and notify law enforcement immediately,” even if the report is made anonymously. 

Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information, which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime. 

Call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477); the caller may remain anonymous and the call is not recorded. 

Ventura County Crime Stoppers can also be contacted by texting “Busted” plus your message to CRIMES (274637). 

Crime Stopper Tips can also be sent via the website, www.venturacountycrimestoppers.org





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