Five suspected growers indicted by federal grand jury
Five alleged marijuana growers have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the wake of a two-day-long series of raids on marijuana-growing operations in Nevada, Yuba and El Dorado counties.
Scott Blake Miller, 31, of Grass Valley; Damien Michael Baranowski, 37, of Nevada City; Michael James Taylor, 47, of Bali, Indonesia; Kawika Mark Madeiros, 27, of Nevada City; and Christian Carlson, 25, of Nevada City, were charged with manufacturing marijuana and conspiring to manufacture marijuana in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Thursday.
Law enforcement agents seized more than 4,100 marijuana plants, more than 200 pounds of processed marijuana, and several firearms during 16 searches in three counties, according to court documents.
Several defendants allegedly were armed at the time of their arrest, and several have prior felony convictions for narcotics offenses, officials said.
Miller had pleaded no contest in 2005 to one charge of transporting a narcotic controlled substance stemming from a December 2003 arrest; seven other drug-related charges were dropped at his sentencing.
Madeiros had been arrested in 2003 on suspicion of planting and cultivating marijuana.
Carlson was arrested in a marijuana grow with a firearm while on pre-trial release from an earlier arrest, the indictment read. He is currently facing charges for manufacturing marijuana in Southern California in 2009.
Documents found at a number of the search locations allegedly show hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial transactions, and the interstate shipment of cash and narcotics.
The Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation branch led a multi-agency marijuana bust that also included Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies and members of the Narcotics Task Force, as well as the Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation Team in targeting several locations in Nevada County, Sheriff Keith Royal said.
The local raids involved several alleged marijuana farms off Chalk Bluff Road between Highway 20 and Red Dog Road, about 11 miles east of Nevada City.
“We confiscated and eradicated approximately 1,400 plants ranging in size up to 10 feet in height,” he said. “Additionally, we seized 90 pounds of processed marijuana.”
Several handguns and shotguns were found at different locations that allegedly were being used to protect the cultivation sites, Royal said.
“At one location, we seized approximately 2,000 steroid tabs and injectable steroids, along with a small bottle or vial of MDMA (ecstasy) in powdered form,” he said.
The maximum statutory penalty for manufacturing or conspiring to manufacture marijuana is life in prison (with a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence), a $4 million fine, and a five-year to life term of supervised release.
The five men were charged as part of Operation Cash Crop, a joint operation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement; the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office; the Placer County Sheriff’s Department; and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department. The joint investigation focused on both illegal narcotics transactions and illegal financial transactions.
A federal grand jury returned a separate indictment arising from the same operation in July, charging eight men with manufacturing marijuana and conspiring to manufacture marijuana in Rough and Ready.
The eight men were arrested July 19 at a large-scale marijuana grow in the 11000 block of Glenn Loop off Rex Reservoir Road.
“They had marijuana growing everywhere,” said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal. “They had marijuana growing in Styrofoam cups, on trays, on top of roofs … They had gardens that had been indoor (grows), but they had pulled the canopy covers off. They had marijuana drying in a trailer. They had marijuana packaged in a safe.
“It was quite an operation,” Royal said.
Agents seized 2,804 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, ranging from starter plants to approximately 4 feet in height. There was a large cloning room, numerous outdoor marijuana plants and two large greenhouses full of marijuana under cultivation, Royal said.
Agents also seized approximately $5,000 in U.S. currency inside the residence, and approximately 200 pounds of untrimmed and processed marijuana inside six large gun safes, several plastic totes and large plastic bags.
John Gross Jr., 68, John Gross III, 46, Kenneth Gross, 42, Jack Lyons, 58, and Salvador Reyes, 53, all from Rough and Ready, Travis Hronis, 21, of Grass Valley, Matthew Maya, 19, and Brandon Maya, 22, both of Penn Valley, also were arrested at the scene.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.
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