Calif. drug bust nets $2.2 mil. worth of marijuana

By Stacia Glenn, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

APPLE VALLEY, Calif.  If sheriff's deputies had broken down the door a month ago, a lot less pot would be on the streets these days: about $3.6 million less.

They missed an early harvest but still netted 678 plants valued at $2.2 million when they raided another indoor marijuana farm in the High Desert on Tuesday morning. They got the pot but not the farmer.

The three-bedroom stucco house in the 16000 block of Dale Evans Parkway is the Sheriff's Department's 38th marijuana bust this year. It's also the second in two days in this small desert community.

"We're definitely shutting down business for people," said sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller. "Law enforcement is putting a dent in (marijuana growers') operations."

It's another example of the rapidly increasing trend of upscale suburban houses hosting lots of sticky-green plants.

Neighbors are now suspicious of homes they never see anybody move into or windows that are boarded up with drywall. Many report grow houses via an anonymous hot line, which is how narcotics detectives found their way to the grow house Tuesday morning.

The door was smashed in at 7a.m., but nobody was home. The only sign of occupancy was a can of Chinese soup, chopsticks and a case of Pepsi.

Growers are believed to have harvested about 1,000 plants in the last two-to-four weeks, deputies said.

An extensive hydroponic system was used to grow marijuana in nearly every room of the house, bathrooms and kitchen excluded.

Thirty-two tubs of hydroponic chemicals worth $5,000 were stacked in a small room off the kitchen.

Deputies said the marijuana was high quality.

"Because of the nutrients they're using on these grows, the THC level is stronger, meaning the value is more," Miller said.

Large tubs, fans and a filtering system found inside were estimated at $10,000. Pot farmers bypassed the electrical box and stole about $6,000 in electricity each month, said Southern California Edison officials.

"In bypassing the electricity, they're not sending up the red flags," Miller said. "Otherwise, the electric company would see an immediate flag as to what is going on in that that house."

The electricity was turned on in January, leading deputies to believe that is when the grow house was established.

Investigation into when the home was bought, by whom and for how much is ongoing.

There were few neighbors to the marijuana operation. The closest house was boarded up and the only other building within hundreds of feet was a gas station on the corner.

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