Authorities arrest 5, seize estimated $5 million in cannabis in North County grow operation
–Last Thursday and Friday, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office along with partner agencies investigated two illegal trespass cannabis grows in North San Luis Obispo County. The cultivation sites were located in the area of Parkhill Road and Huer Huero Road east of Santa Margarita. Detectives harvested various stages of cannabis plants being illegally cultivated.
Members of the Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit, Sheriff’s Cannabis Enforcement Unit, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Homeland Security Investigations, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), Cal Fire, Code Enforcement, California Department Food and Agriculture (CDFA) – Cal-Cannabis, and the U.S. Forest Service Bureau of Land Management were involved in the investigations.
The illegal trespass grows were spotted by members of the Sheriff’s Cannabis Enforcement Unit a few days prior during a reconnaissance mission. Evidence at the scenes indicated both grow sites may be part of a Mexican National cultivation operation.
This type of operation, besides being illegal, produces many environmental hazards from the chemicals and pesticides used on the plants to the generation of large amounts of trash, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. A container of carbofuran was located at one of the properties, which is an illegal dangerous toxic pesticide known to be extremely hazardous, it said. Nearby water sources were affected and diverted to water the cannabis plants. A full investigation related to the ecological concerns are being investigated by members of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Approximately 5,000 plants were confiscated. If these plants had been allowed to mature, it is estimated the retail value of the cannabis would have been approximately five million dollars.
Five arrests were made for various narcotics and weapons charges:
Carlos Martinez Espinoza, 35, of Delano, CA
Antonio Mendoza Alvarado, 26, of Delano, CA. He has a criminal history with ties to a criminal street gang out of Delano, according to the report.
Hector Fernando Zepeda Miranda, 36, of Santa Maria, CA
Jaime Rivera Mercado, 44, of Stockton, CA
Benjamin Rivera Mercado, 42, of Lodi, CA
Five weapons were seized including a fully automatic AK 47 style assault rifle with a 30-round magazine and 100-round drum-style magazine.
Due to the state’s current zero-bail policy, all persons arrested for the various felonies committed were released back into the community within eight hours of being booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail.