Sheriff Busts Big Pot Gardens

Written by Estero Bay News

August 12, 2020

The County Sheriff’s Office led a raid on two unpermitted, illegal marijuana gardens, arresting five men and confiscating illegal guns and millions of dollars worth of the evil weed.

According to Sheriff’s spokesman, Tony Cipolla, on July 30-31, the Sheriff’s Department and several other law enforcement agencies “investigated two illegal trespass cannabis grows in Northern San Luis Obispo County. The cultivation sites were located in the area of Parkhill Road and Huer Huero Road.”

The officers cut down some 5,000 plants at various stages of maturity that were “being illegally cultivated.”

It was a full court press of agencies that took part. “Members of the Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit, Sheriff’s Cannabis Enforcement Unit, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Homeland Security Investigations, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), Cal Fire, [County] Code Enforcement, California Department Food and Agriculture — Cal-Cannabis, and the U.S. Forest Service Bureau of Land Management were involved in the investigations.”

The Sheriff’s Cannabis Enforcement Unit spotted the pot gardens a few days before the raid “during a reconnaissance mission,” Cipolla said. “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.

“A container of Carbofuran was located at one of the properties, which is an illegal, dangerous toxic pesticide known to be extremely hazardous,” Cipolla said. “Nearby water sources were affected and diverted to water the cannabis plants.”

“If these plants had been allowed to mature,” Cipolla said, “it is estimated the retail value of the cannabis would have been approximately $5 million.”

Five men were arrested and charged with numerous narcotics and weapons violations, but Cipolla said they were released without bail within hours.

The arrested men were: Carlos Martinez Espinoza, 35 of Delano, Calif.; Antonio Mendoza Alvarado, 26, Delano; Hector Fernando Zepeda Miranda, 36 of Santa Maria; Jaime Rivera Mercado, 44 of Stockton; and Benjamin Rivera Mercado, 42 of Lodi.Cipolla added, “Five weapons were seized including a fully automatic AK 47 style assault rifle with a 30-round magazine and 100-round drum style magazine. One of the suspects, Antonio Mendoza Alvarado, had a criminal history with ties to a criminal street gang out of Delano, Calif.

“Due to the zero-bail policy, all persons arrested, for the various felonies committed, were released back into the community within 8 hours of being booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail.”

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