Friday, August 1, 2008

Law enforcement makes major pot bust


A series of large-scale marijuana busts culminated earlier this week during a three-day eradication effort of nearly 35,000 mature marijuana plants seized from locations in the Los Padres National Forest, authorities said.

The estimated street value of the illegal plants stands at $87.5 million, Sgt. Alex Tipolt of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. No arrests were made during the joint campaign between sheriff’s officials, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Justice.
“Evidence recovered at several locations indicate that Mexican nationals were living in grows and tending to them,” Sgt. Tipolt said in the release. “Over the years, Mexican nationals have had an increased presence in illegal marijuana cultivation in the United States.”
Approximately 35 law enforcement officers participated in the operation, which targeted two grows in the Juncal Dam area, three grows in the wilderness west of Lake Cachuma, and four grows in the Bear Canyon area.
Sgt. Tipolt said large marijuana grows are an increasingly widespread problem in public land, particularly the national forest. Describing them as often sophisticated operations, he said the plantations are frequently traced back to drug cartels.
“Forest visitors or residents who happen upon them may be harassed or assaulted,” he said. “The growers are usually armed, sometimes with automatic weapons and high-power rifles, and they have been known to place ‘booby-traps’ designed to seriously maim or kill intruders.”
Sgt. Tipolt said any visitor to forest lands should contact the sheriff’s department about anything suspicious, such as individuals carrying irrigation tubing or large amounts of food; the same vehicle seen frequently parked in the same area; or new trails where there appears to be no attraction.

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