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Drug Raid Reveals Massive Grow Op

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Police say owners of a light-blue, two-storey house west of Quesnel are connected to Hell's Angels. It's an idyllic enough sitting.

A wood fence surrounds the property. There's a wide-open yard and at first glance the place looks like just any other country home.

That is, except for the more than 2,000 marijuana plants found in a barn on the property.

Sitting on a well-wooded piece of land, the red barn stands near several additional out-buildings about 50 or so metres from the house.

Police used two snowmobiles to pull out 2,068 marijuana plants from the barn last week after an anonymous tip to police led Mounties to the property located on Leipitich Road, just off West Fraser Road about 30 minutes outside of Quesnel.

RCMP arrested two 24-year-old men from the Lower Mainland with formal charges pending the investigation.

"The paper trail tells us the residents are associated with the Hells Angels," RCMP Cpl. Gary Senner said Monday.

While searching the house, police found utility bills with names and numbers.

Before executing a search warrant of the barn and house, Quesnel Drug Section spent 23 hours on the case.

They staked out the property near midnight Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Using a thermal imaging camera, police officers found the barn was off the charts - showing up red and hot in the screen of the heat-detecting camera.

In daylight, police officers observed there weren't any farm animals, nor farm equipment, and the road to the barn itself was not plowed. The entire area was also blanketed by the unmistakable smell of marijuana.

"This was a multi-million dollar operation," Senner said.

"It produced enough marijuana every eight weeks to supply every high school student attending Quesnel secondary, Correlieu secondary and McNaughton Centre with roughly a four-month supply of marijuana."

By 1 p.m. the next day ( Jan. 18 ), about 20 officers from Quesnel drug section, general duty and the North District Emergency Response Team descended on the grow op with a capacity to produce 84 pounds of the drug every eight weeks. Using conservative numbers, that's a staggering $252,000 every two months and more than $1 million every year from a single operation.

"I believe most of the marijuana from this grow op was sold before it was even grown," Senner said.

"Some was probably sold locally, but like the vast majority of operations this size, it produced too much to stay local. To get top dollar, it's sold elsewhere.

"A grow op this size could flood the market in Quesnel."

Because of the drug operation's connection to organized crime, police took all precautions when taking it down.

"During our investigation, we learned the grow op was connected to organized crime, and those connected to the residence are also connected to other large grow ops," Senner said.

"These are criminals with access to assault rifles and bullet-proof vests.

"We took this serious enough to have a ambulance on stand-by.

"What we did was negotiate with them rather than take the grow op by force."

Police called the residence, getting one of the suspects on the phone.

With a perimeter set-up, police waited as negotiations were able to get the suspect in the house to stand down and surrender.

"Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the time they realize there's no where to go, so they surrender," Senner said.

The second suspect was arrested and handcuffed when exiting the barn. Once the property was secure, police entered the barn to find more than 2,000 plants on the main level.

"It took five hours to get all the plants out," Senner said.

When searching the house, police realized the place was set-up with just the essentials.

"There were the basics - TV, stove, fridge, couch and weight machine. Some cots were set up for the short term.

"I've been involved in more than 200 pot busts and this one has all the hallmarks of a grow-op run from the Lower Mainland.

"They were living out of their suitcases."

Senner said marijuana growers often pick out isolated, rural properties to use for criminal purposes.

"There were no other houses nearby.... It was isolated and remote, not a lot of neighbours - you can go longer without getting detected."

Police will confiscate around $200,000 of marijuana-growing equipment this week, including grow lights, air conditioners and electrical systems. To run the operation's lights, police said the suspects stole electricity.

"There was a hydro bypass, we're waiting for calculations, but they could have been stealing 20-30 kilowatts every 60 days," Senner said.

While the marijuana's grow-op's connection to organized crime is troubling to police, it's nothing new.

"For every one you find, there's 10 more," Senner said.

He added tips to the RCMP are their "bread and butter," and emphasized the police never give up a source.

"It's hard to get into a house without good information. People assume police automatically know where all the grow-ops or crack shacks are.

"This is not just the police's problem, it's the community's problem as well."

Source: Quesnel Cariboo Observer (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Quesnel Cariboo Observer
Contact: newsroom@quesnelobserver.com
Website: Home - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
 
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