GrowQuest Growers: Guilty plea to
felonies by owner of online nursery

June 05, 2015
Santa Paula News

The operator of an online, mail order nursery business headquartered for years in Santa Paula pleaded guilty to felony counts of grand theft and conspiracy for not delivering the goods to customers throughout the nation. And when the goods did get delivered they did so without the proper inspections and quarantines.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that Christopher Morgan Gilcrest, 51, also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of false advertising in connection with his business, GrowQuest Growers.

The guilty pleas came after an investigation by the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors said Gilcrest illegally operated GrowQuest Growers selling and delivering rose bushes, citrus and olive trees, ladybugs and other items from his website. 

Authorities said Gilcrest sold the items without a valid license and failed to comply with quarantine regulations and also accepted some payments without providing any products.

There were dozens of complaints filed against Gilcrest including with the Santa Paula Police that referred them to the District Attorney’s Office. Online complaints of GrowQuest’s failure to deliver started showing up more than a decade ago.

In addition, the Tri-Counties Better Business Bureau received hundreds of complaints from across the nation about GrowQuest over the past three years, according to prosecutors.

GrowQuest Growers for years had an office in Santa Paula located on Davis Street.

District Attorney Greg Totten said, “The quarantine violations,” by Gilcrest by shipping stock without the proper wait or inspections, “posed a serious threat to California’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industry.”

Prosecutors said when Gilcrest is sentenced June 24 they expect he will receive one year in Ventura County jail and five years’ probation and be ordered to pay restitution to victims. And, as part of his probation, he will be prohibited from engaging in the agriculture business or selling nursery stock.

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