Probes continue into mysterious marijuana grows in Yuba County
Special to The Union
Close to 8,000 marijuana plants, six firearms, and thousands in U.S. currency have been seized and at least 14 arrests have been made since March in three illegal marijuana cultivation busts by the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office.
Though the three busts have been at different locations throughout Yuba County, or just outside it in Butte and Sacramento counties, there has been a pattern with the individuals arrested — they were all born in China.
Leslie Carbah, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said some of the individuals are citizens and some are in the country with Chinese passports.
“Homeland Security is currently working with us on these investigations, and it may potentially be handled federally,” Carbah said. “Our cases are still under review and continue to be actively investigated.”
Carbah said the sheriff’s office is unable to comment on whether it is looking into ties to China, due to it being an active investigation. However, following a bust in March, she did say that the sheriff’s office was going to look into it.
She said the sheriff’s office believes the grow operations in Yuba County had only been going on since late 2016, based on the information detectives currently have.
“Aside from our cases tied to Butte and Sacramento counties, we aren’t specifically aware of any current investigations tied to Chinese-born individuals, but that’s not to say that other such cases don’t exist,” Carbah said.
“We don’t believe it’s unique to our area.”
Details on the possibility of it being a criminal organization, where the marijuana was being sold and who was profiting from the sales are also unclear due to it being an active investigation, Carbah said.
However, criminal organizations running drug operations have been discovered in Yuba County in the past.
“We have had other cases in the past involving various groups operating large-scale grows that were suspected to be tied to criminal organizations such as cartels,” Carbah said.
Five individuals arrested in the most recent busts in May are in the Yuba County Superior Court system, but the other nine are not included. In early May, Yuba County District Attorney Pat McGrath said the nine people arrested during the Edgewater bust are being considered for federal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento (See this story at TheUnion.com fore more information on the busts).
Lauren Horwood, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, said she was unaware of whether the nine people were going to be prosecuted in a federal court because they were not in their system.
“I don’t have any information about them, and even if we did, when we do have investigations that haven’t been charged yet, we don’t comment on them either to confirm or deny,” Horwood said.
Yuba County Supervisor Randy Fletcher said the county is going to do all it can to enforce the law and will arrest anyone found to be growing marijuana for profit.
“What I’ve heard, the general perception of growing in the foothills now is ‘It’s OK, it’s legal now, you can do whatever you want,’ but that’s not true. We still have an ordinance, and by all means growing commercially is not allowed, outdoors or indoors,” Fletcher said.
Early on the morning of March 16, the sheriff’s office, along with drug task forces from the region and the Department of Homeland Security, issued search warrants on six houses within a few streets apart from each other in the Edgewater neighborhood just outside Marysville.
Each house was found to have been completely converted to a grow house, with just a few rooms designated as living quarters. Approximately 3,600 plants, 50 pounds of processed marijuana and two firearms were seized during the raid.
Nine people were arrested in the bust, with charges ranging from criminal conspiracy, planting, harvesting or processing more than six marijuana plants and keeping a place for the purpose of unlawfully selling a controlled substance.
That same day, three houses in Sacramento County were served search warrants, bringing the total number of homes to nine. In Sacramento County, approximately 1,600 marijuana plants were seized, as well as another firearm, Carbah said.
Those arrested in the Edgewater bust were: Zhen Shang Lin, 35; Wei Shing Weng, 45; Xu Chen, 42; Qieu Wei, 43; Guang Sheng Ye; Jing Li Jiang, 48; Li Oing Xiong, 46; Wenjie Weng, 37; Li Juan Wang, 35.
LOMA RICA BUST
On May 17, the sheriff’s office served a search warrant at a residence in the 12000 block of Krosens Road, Loma Rica. The Marijuana Enforcement Team seized 2,166 marijuana plants and $5,335 in cash, along with scales and packaging material.
Three people who were at the property at the time of the search were arrested on suspicion of planting, harvesting or processing more than six marijuana plants.
Law enforcement also found a pipe system running from a nearby creek that was feeding water to the grow site.
Carbah said the water diversion was causing contamination to the natural habitat.
While deputies were serving the search warrant, a man from Bangor arrived at the residence. When questioned, he reportedly said he was just visiting the grow. He later told law enforcement that he had his own marijuana grow in Bangor.
Arrested were Jianwen Guo, 47, Shaqhua Ding, 55 and Qian Shi, 56.
After the Bangor man told law enforcement officials that he had his own marijuana grow site, sheriff’s department detectives began to surveil him. Through their surveillance, detectives discovered the man had more than 20 greenhouses filled with marijuana at his residence in Bangor.
On May 23, the sheriff’s office, along with the Butte County Special Enforcement Unit, served a search warrant at the property and seized more than 2,000 marijuana plants, $2,556 in cash, three shotguns and a handgun.
Two people were arrested during the seizure and booked into Yuba County Jail on suspicion of criminal conspiracy and planting, harvesting or processing more than six marijuana plants.
During the search of the property, law enforcement found evidence in one of the suspect’s rooms that confirmed ties to the Krosens Road grow site that was shut down the week before.
Arrested were Tommy Zhong Fang, 53, and Liangze Fang, 55.
Jake Abbott is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. Contact him at 530-749-4769 and on Twitter (@JakeAbbott_AD).
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