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UPDATE: Encinitas Man Pleads Guilty

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
SAN DIEGO -- An Encinitas man who obtained a monetary settlement from the U.S. government for land damaged in a 2002 wildfire that allegedly was caused by a drug surveillance helicopter pleaded guilty Friday to his role in a clandestine marijuana-growing operation in Santa Ysabel.

Damien Anthony Andrews, 34, pleaded guilty Friday to a federal charge that he conspired to produce more than 100 marijuana plants. He also pleaded guilty to two federal money laundering charges and agreed to forfeit to the U.S. government a 39-acre property he owns in Santa Ysabel, an Oceanside home, and his primary residence in Encinitas, which federal prosecutors said he bought in November 2006 for $1.4 million.

Fire damage to the Santa Ysabel property was the basis for a lawsuit Andrews filed in 2005 against the United States. The drug surveillance helicopter flight at issue in the lawsuit did not appear to be directed at Andrews.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson, the prosecutor assigned to the criminal case, said federal authorities did not become aware of Andrews' marijuana-growing operation until years after the 2002 Pines fire. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Dan Simmons, the organization's spokesman in San Diego, said he could not comment on helicopter surveillance operations.

Authorities arrested Andrews on March 28, when federal agents searched his Santa Ysabel property and found a "clandestine indoor marijuana cultivation operation" underground. An elevator concealed in a garage closet went to a 4-foot-wide, 65-foot-long tunnel, which led to the marijuana growing rooms, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent John Gieson wrote in a document filed with the federal court.

Gieson wrote that agents found 454 marijuana plants, and that "sophisticated surveillance systems" were in a log cabin on the property and in the marijuana growing rooms.

Authorities learned of allegations that Andrews was growing marijuana at the property in 2004 from two confidential sources. An informant reported to agents in January 2006 that Andrews had a clandestine marijuana operation indoors, Gieson wrote.

A resident who was not identified in the court document reported to federal authorities in October 2006 that someone who distributed marijuana for Andrews had said Andrews had a marijuana growing operation beneath his house, Gieson wrote.

The plea agreement entered Friday in federal court calls for Andrews to be sentenced to five years in federal prison, Hobson said Monday. U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw is scheduled to sentence Andrews on Aug. 3.

Andrews' criminal defense attorney, Michael Pancer, traded telephone messages with a reporter Monday but could not be reached by telephone or e-mail for comment.

In his 2005 lawsuit, Andrews alleged that a National Guard helicopter carrying out a drug surveillance program for the Drug Enforcement Administration in July 2002 struck a power line, which caused a spark that ignited the Pines fire. The blaze burned almost 62,000 acres, and destroyed 37 homes.

Andrews alleged in the lawsuit that the fire "burned, destroyed and damaged" 24 of the 39 acres he owned in Santa Ysabel. Andrews asked for more than $182,000 in damages in the lawsuit.

Court documents stated that the U.S. government and Andrews agreed to a settlement in July 2006. The settlement amount was not disclosed in court documents and the assistant U.S. attorney who worked on the civil case could not be reached Monday for comment.

Hobson said Andrews testified in depositions as part of the civil lawsuit that he had "minimal income," but in his loan application for his Encinitas residence, he claimed that he earned $300,000 a year from a company he managed. The deposition testimony helped show that Andrews was "making false statements" about the true source of his income, which was the marijuana operation, Hobson said.

What prosecutors have called "separate but related" cases against two other men still are pending. Sean Smith, 35, of Santa Ysabel is charged with conspiracy to produce more than 100 marijuana plants in connection with the marijuana operation at the Santa Ysabel property, court records showed.

Anthony Martin Hillerby, 40, is charged with producing 233 marijuana plants at an Encinitas residence. Gieson wrote in a document filed with that case that Hillerby was a "sub-tenant" of the residence and that Andrews was the "sub-lessor."

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: North County Times
Author: Scott Marshall
Contact: smarshall@nctimes.com
Copyright: 2007 North County Times
Website: Encinitas man pleads guilty in marijuana case - North County Times - San Diego / County -


New Member
This story makes me CRAZY with fury cause it's on my turf. I could go on for pages about the details, the unfairness of those f***in' swine but instead I'll just say this:

Never show your grow operation to others no matter how proud you are of it.
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