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Pot Growers Getting Savvier, Police Say

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
Indoor Cultivators Learn to Blend With Suburban Neighbors

The first two of a dozen people arrested last year in connection with a spate of area homes converted into hot-houses for growing marijuana have pleaded guilty and await sentencing in federal court.

Yet authorities who suspect a San Francisco-based crime syndicate backed these residential enterprises said indoor marijuana cultivation is on the rise. With high-profile busts, the illegal growers have learned to disguise these large-scale operations, authorities said.

"They read the newspaper and see the TV news," said Gordon Taylor, who heads the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's Sacramento office. Taylor spearheaded raids on dozens of homes last year in Sacramento, Elk Grove, Stockton, Tracy and Lathrop.

In those raids, agents and local police seized thousands of marijuana plants from homes often in newer residential areas. Neighbors tipped off authorities when they noticed covered windows and people showing up occasionally and at strange hours.

Now, Taylor said the growers, who try to go undetected, only convert the out-of-view second floor for cultivating plants instead of gutting the entire home. To appear legitimate, a home's first floor is often furnished and somebody takes up residency, he said.

Officer Christopher Trim, an Elk Grove Police Department spokesman, said that's what they found in September when officers arrested 15 people and seized 6,800 plants from 14 homes.

"Criminals will adapt and make their operations less detectable," Trim said. "The credit goes to the neighbors who think that something's not quite right."

It is unclear if the dogged investigation and prosecution is paying off as the number of marijuana plants seized from illegal indoor growing operations in California more than tripled in recent years, according to DEA statistics.

In 2004, some 54,569 plants were seized from illegal indoor operations throughout California, and in 2006, that number rose to 196,994, according to DEA statistics. Indoor operations also have cropped up in Florida, New Hampshire, Colorado and Washington, Taylor said.

Federal authorities have said that the 12 people arrested last year in San Joaquin County towns were tied to Asian crime syndicates based in San Francisco.

Taylor in an interview last week declined to give details on this connection, saying the investigation is ongoing.

U.S. Attorney Robert Twiss, who is prosecuting the case, also declined to elaborate on those higher up in the organization, saying only that, "Those folks haven't been indicted."

Twiss so far negotiated guilty pleas with Terry Tong and Hong Zeng, both in their early 20s and from the Bay Area. Under the plea agreements, they are each expected to spend about three years in federal prison. They would have faced 10 years but received significant breaks for agreeing to tell investigators everything they knew, Twiss said.

Twiss also would not say if he anticipates more guilty pleas and further indictments.

"It's fair to assume these people didn't pick these houses at random," Twiss said of those under prosecution. "As to who's in charge - who they are, where they are or what they are - I don't have anything to offer on that."

Source: Record, The (Stockton, CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Record
Contact: editor@recordnet.com
Website: Recordnet.com Frontpage | San Joaquin County News, Jobs, Cars, Real Estate and more
 

OG Kushsta

New Member
Pretty well informed person that wrote that. I have noticed the same thing.. People cant risk turning on a whole house and power tapping anymore.. At least not in Suburbia anymore.. Landlords, Neighbors, Realtors , Cops and Utility company's are more and more aware of what to look for. "Weeds" didnt help anything.
 

FreakNature

New Member
"authorities who suspect a San Francisco-based crime syndicate backed these residential enterprises"

Why does everything have to be a conspiracy? I mean besides the fact that it probably increases the penalties if they call it that...
 

FreakNature

New Member
Damn Pothead Terrorists!
 
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