Officers Followed Noses To Pot Farm

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Moving Company Owner Is Held After 1,050 High-Grade Marijuana Plants
and Cultivation Equipment Are Seized at Costa Mesa Warehouse.

The owner of a Huntington Beach-based moving company has been arrested
on suspicion of cultivating large amounts of high-grade marijuana in a
Costa Mesa warehouse, police said.

Paul Harriman, 42, owner of the Starving College Students Moving Co.,
is also accused of stealing electricity from Southern California
Edison to operate a greenhouse that took up the warehouse's entire
upper floor, said Sgt. Mike Ginther, a spokesman for the Costa Mesa
Police Department.

"We had people calling because they could smell marijuana from four or
five buildings away," Ginther said. "They thought it was skunks, so we
started snooping around."

He said that this type of marijuana contains a high concentration of
THC, whose smell is often mistaken for skunk odor.

The investigation culminated in a raid about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the
warehouse in the 2000 block of Placentia Avenue. Among other things,
Ginther said, police recovered 1,050 high-grade plants growing in
hydroponic pods, 100 pounds of the drug worth about $450,000, a
handgun and documents indicating ongoing sales.

They also recovered about $75,000 worth of equipment - including water
pumps, trays, copper tubing, electric valves, blowers and giant lights
- - used in cultivating the illegal plants.

"He'd really spent a lot of money on setting all this stuff up,"
Ginther said.

An Edison investigator summoned by police discovered that the
warehouse's electrical wiring had been rigged to bypass its meter.

"With this kind of setup - including huge-wattage bulbs - your
electric bill would be astronomical," Ginther said.

"When we saw how extensive this was, we realized there's no way this
guy could be paying these electrical bills."

Ginther estimated the value of the stolen electricity "in excess of
$20,000," though an Edison spokesman could not confirm any details of
the case.

A man answering the moving company's telephone Wednesday declined
comment.

The firm is one of several operating locally with similar
names.

According to Ginther, Harriman was taken to Costa Mesa Jail, where
bail was set at $100,000. He was expected to appear at Harbor Justice
Center for arraignment this morning, Ginther said. No one else at the
company has been implicated in the case, he said.


Pubdate: Thu, 08 Jan 2004
Webpage: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-pot8jan08,1,7595250.story
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2004 Los Angeles Times
Contact: letters@latimes.com