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March 22, 2007
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Huge pot farm found inside upscale Calif. home

By Brian Day
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Related Story: Pot growing moves to Calif. suburbs: Illegal marijuana growers turning hot real estate into hothouses

DIAMOND BAR, Calif. — More than 2,000 marijuana plants were confiscated from a house in an upscale Diamond Bar neighborhood Wednesday in what officials described as the largest indoor pot-growing operation they've ever seen.

Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Narcotics Unit served a search warrant about 3 p.m. at a two-story, 3,000-square-foot home at 1512 Eldertree Drive, which was "100 percent devoted to marijauna growing," said sheriff's narcotics Lt. James Whitten.

The warrant was issued after an anonymous tip to the sheriff's department Tuesday, said Capt. Dennis Werner of the Sheriff's Narcotics Bureau.

Officials believe the find may be connected to a large pot-growing bust made in Northern and Central California in late February and early March, in which 50 houses full of pot were discovered, said Werner.

If the Diamond Bar house, which Werner described as "one of the most sophisticated and largest I've ever seen," is connected to the Northern California bust, then this find may only be the tip of the iceberg.

"We suspect there's going to be more of them in the community," Werner said, adding that the sophisticated growing operations found previously, which are believed to have been run by Asian organized crime groups, "looked exactly like this."

"We are asking for the public's help," said Werner. Anyone who sees a susicious home should notify their local police agency.

Nearly every room in the home was packed with $60,000 to $80,000 worth of lights, pumps, filters, timers and other equipment used in the cultivation of marijuana, said Werner.

Additionally, the entire house had been skillfully re-wired to allow the growers to draw extremely high amounts of electricty without either paying for it or arousing suspicion from the utility company, Werner explained.

The home, which officials believe was purchased in January, has drawn over $7,000 in stolen electricity from the Edison power grid since February, said Whitten.

Edision officials said a power transformer serving the neighborhood had been overloaded to four times its normal capacity, and was ready to fail at any time, leaving the whole neighborhood in darkness, said Whitten.

The street value of the pot is estimated at $2 million to $10million, depending on its potency and how it is sold, said Werner, adding that marijauna found Wednesday appeared to be of a very high potency.

"This is not medical marijuana," said Werner, "This is being peddled to our kids on the street."

Jennifer Stein, 31, has been a resident of the street for 11 years, and said she frequently jogged past the house, but never suspected what may have been going on inside.

Mike Vandehouten, 21, has lived in the neighborhood for eight years and said he did notice a strange odor coming from the home from time to time.

Both residents described their street as being extremely quiet and peaceful, and both said they had never seen anyone go into or come out of the house.

Kiet Chung, 40, was found inside the home and is being held on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana in lieu of $500,000 bail, officials said.

Investigators are still looking into who owns the house, and whether the house can be seized by the government, Whitten said.

Copyright 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc. and Los Angeles Newspaper Group, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Full story: Huge pot farm found inside upscale Calif. home

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