Pubdate: Tue, 21 Feb 2012
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Record Searchlight
Author: Alayna Shulman


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

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

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

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

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

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

Rogoway, Sanchez Garcia's attorney, pointed out that no patients
associated with the garden were arrested or charged for the alleged

"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. 
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