Pubdate: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA) Copyright: 2012 Record Searchlight Contact: http://www.redding.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/360 Author: Alayna Shulman WOMAN ALLEGES ILLEGAL SEIZURE; MORE THAN 800 POUNDS OF POT DESTROYED A woman who owns land in the Round Mountain area has filed a claim against Shasta County alleging deputies unlawfully searched her property and destroyed hundreds of pounds of legally grown marijuana there. Filed by Santa Rosa attorney Joe Rogoway on behalf of Esmeralda Sanchez Garcia, 25, the claim is the precursor to a lawsuit. It alleges agents with the Shasta County Marijuana Eradication Team searched Sanchez Garcia's Dunn Moody Road property without a warrant and destroyed more than 800 pounds of legally grown marijuana, violating her state and constitutional rights. It seeks more than $25,000 to replace the destroyed marijuana. The agents involved in the raid said they interviewed two men on the property Aug. 11 and interviewed Sanchez Garcia on the phone Aug. 31, leading them to believe there was an illegal operation taking place there. Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said a search warrant isn't always necessary in such cases. "From evidence found during the initial investigation, coupled with statements it is my opinion I had reasonable cause to believe a felony was being committed by all parties involved in the cultivation operation off Dunn Moody Road," wrote Sgt. Barry Powell in a police report. In this case, deputies first noticed the marijuana grow when flying over the property via helicopter Aug. 11. They interviewed two men there and found three medical marijuana recommendations, only one of which was for one of the men on the site, Powell said. One was for Garcia Sanchez, Powell said. The others were for two males, Francisco Orozco and Xavier Reyes Mendoza. In addition, Powell said deputies found 320 plants, but the three recommendations allowed for only 99 plants each. One of the men who did not have a recommendation, Angel Valero Gonzalez, told Powell he was being paid $200 a week to care for the plants by Sanchez Garcia, Powell wrote. Powell said he told Valero Gonzalez that was illegal because he wasn't her primary caregiver, but nothing happened at the time. Deputies returned on Aug. 31 with representatives from the Shasta County district attorney's office, Powell said, but no one was there at the time. There was, however, a new recommendation posted for another man - Francisco Gomez - who hadn't been contacted, Powell said. Later that day, deputies contacted Sanchez Garcia, who said she had a marijuana recommendation for stomach problems but hadn't been to the property in about a month and a half, Powell said. Powell said he called Sanchez Garcia's doctor and the recommendation was confirmed. Sanchez Garcia told Powell she was not paying anybody to care for the plants and the men there weren't her caregivers, he said. And she said she didn't know the other two men who had recommendations posted on her property, Powell wrote. "From her own admission from being absent from the cultivation site for over one month and (a) half indicates she was not collectively taking part in the growing operation and not having a caregiver to take care of her marijuana plants, all evidence to show the marijuana operation illegal and out of compliance," Powell wrote. On Oct. 5, Powell said he contacted Gomez, one of the other people with a recommendation found on the property. Gomez told him a man named Javier takes care of his plants, Powell said. There wasn't a recommendation or caregiver information for anyone named Javier on the property, Powell said. With that information, Powell said, the district attorney's office was notified and advised deputies there was enough evidence to show the garden was illegal. Deputies returned on Oct. 6 and found three more men, none of whom had recommendations and all of whom were deported to Mexico, Powell said. All three men signed waivers consenting to a search, Powell said. The three men told deputies they were promised $2,000 to be split three ways to take care of the plants, Powell said. "It appears it's going to be more of a commercial operation than for medical purposes," Bosenko said. The men also told deputies "Angel" was in charge of the operation, but that he told them it was legal, Powell said. Deputies were unable to locate the alleged ringleader, Powell said. Rogoway, Sanchez Garcia's attorney, pointed out that no patients associated with the garden were arrested or charged for the alleged crimes. "The allegations include knowledge by the Shasta County Sheriff's Office that the medical marijuana plants were lawfully cultivated by a collective in amounts within those recommended by the patient's physicians. Although the conduct of the collective was clearly lawful, the members sheriff's office proceeded to destroy all of the medicine. No patient members of the collective were ever arrested or charged with a crime," Rogoway wrote in an email. Bosenko said Sanchez Garcia is still being investigated. Chris Conrad, author and "court-qualified cannabis expert," estimated the destroyed marijuana would be worth $89,180. Ed Rosenthal, a writer and founder of High Times magazine, estimated the plants' wholesale value at $674,000. Assistant County Counsel Jim Ross said there will likely be a decision on the claim within 45 days from Jan. 30, when it was submitted. If it is rejected, it paves the way for a lawsuit. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.