Pubdate: Thu, 10 Sep 2009 Source: Union, The (Grass Valley, CA) Page: Front Page Copyright: 2009 The Union Contact: http://apps.theunion.com/utils/forms/lettertoeditor/ Website: http://www.theunion.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/957 Author: Liz Kellar and Dave Moller, Staff writers Note: MAP archives articles exactly as published, except that our editors may redact the names and addresses of accused persons who have not been convicted of a crime, if those named are not otherwise public figures or officials. Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?115 (Marijuana - California) POT OPERATION UPROOTED Multi-Agency Raid Nets 12 Arrests Almost 200 law enforcement officers and agents raided an alleged major marijuana growing operation Wednesday morning, hitting at least 10 locations in the San Juan Ridge area. Eleven people were arrested at a site on Badger Hill Road as the raid unfolded, as was [redacted], the alleged grower. Authorities in multiple vehicles and three helicopters swarmed the Ridge through the morning as the raid continued. Narcotics Task Force members learned about two years ago that [redacted] was growing large quantities of marijuana, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said. In the early part of 2008, the Nevada County Narcotics Task Force, Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration began a multi-agency financial investigation of [redacted]. "We learned he was structuring money in quantities of less than $10,000, hoping it wouldn't be detected," Royal said. "He was hoping to stay under the radar with small deposits ... and running that through the banks to buy more property." The IRS determined [redacted] allegedly made deposits at various banks in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars and earned approximately $1.9 million in profits during the past two years that he was trying to conceal, Royal said. Since 2008, by way of aerial surveillance and reconnaissance, agents allegedly discovered multiple outdoor and potential indoor marijuana grows being conducted within 360 acres owned by [redacted]. "He was raising medical marijuana, quote unquote," Royal said. "He had a number of recommendations posted that he was trying to hide behind, to justify the grows." Wednesday morning, law enforcement officers from the Nevada County Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force, DEA, IRS, Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation Team, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Yolo County Sheriff's Department, Placer County Sheriff's Department, Butte County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol, Grass Valley Police Department, Net-5 (Yuba-Sutter) and El Dorado County Sheriff's Department executed federal search warrants on the 10 locations. Nearly two dozen people were detained at the various sites and interviewed. Authorities spent the day cutting down marijuana plants and hauling away documents in a U-Haul truck rented for the occasion. According to Royal, several weapons had been found during the searches. "I believe we are going to find a large amount of cash on the properties" as well, Royal said. At about 10 a.m., a woman who identified herself as a former partner of [redacted] drove up to one of the search sites in the [redacted] and was turned away from the entrance. The woman said she shares custody of a young boy with [redacted] and was stunned at the apparent scope of the growing operation. "I knew he was growing, but I purposely tried not to know," she said, adding that she had no idea [redacted] alleged marijuana cultivation was so extensive. She said he had been acting "stressed" about money and told her he was planning to quit growing pot. She described [redacted] was always being very generous, even helping one employee buy a house, and said he had been running a road-grading operation out of the property on [redacted] The woman said she couldn't believe any weapons on the properties belonged to [redacted] "That would be a big surprise," she said. "I wouldn't expect that, ever ... He wouldn't even let (our son) have a toy gun." Late Wednesday afternoon, Royal said the assessment of the illegal grows was still going on, with "hundreds and hundreds" of marijuana plants being cut down and destroyed. He added he would not have a final count or details on the arrests until Thursday. "At this point, we're estimating the value of the plants will run in the millions," he said. "Some had buds, some were just starting."