INDUSTRY — Following up on the biggest marijuana growing operation ever discovered in El Monte over the weekend, investigators uprooted an even larger pot grow Thursday in Industry.
The operation, found in the 100 Block of Mason Way, contained about 3,600 marijuana plants, valued at about $3 million, El Monte police Detective Ralph Batres said.
“This is a result of our investigation from Saturday,” the detective said, in which police responding to a report of a break-in at an El Monte business found about $3,000 marijuana plants growing inside an industrial building.
“Last week we though it was the biggest, until this one,” said Sgt. Pat Reilly, who headed the Special Investigation Team that found the warehouse Thursday.
Both operations were believed to be run by the same people, though none had been identified or arrested Thursday, officials said. The elaborate operations included countless pieces of lighting and electrical equipment, complex hydroponic systems and large filters to eliminate the potent smell of the pot.
Also, in both cases, electrical meters had been bypassed, so that the growers were stealing their electricity from Southern California Edison.
At the Industry bust, the 13,000-square-foot warehouse had been divided into several rooms, each housing marijuana plants in different stages of development.
Information obtained while raiding the marijuana growing operation in El Monte over the weekend led investigators to take a look at the warehouse in Industry, Reilly said.
After talking to neighbors and observing the business, police obtained a search warrant and found the plants, he added.
“The type of operation is major. There’s a lot of money involved in this,” Batres said.
Reilly estimated the grow operation involved $500,000 worth of equipment.
Ducts venting the marijuana growing rooms to the roof were fitted with gutted out swamp coolers, officials explained, so that law enforcement officers flying in helicopters wouldn’t become suspicious of heat they saw venting from the building through their infrared cameras.
“They’re getting very clever,” Batres said.
Detectives were working to track down the people who rented the Industry warehouse, as well as the El Monte pot growing operation.
Property manager Nina Kraut said she was shocked when notified by police of what her tenants had been doing in her warehouse.
Though she had not met the renters in person, “They seemed very friendly over the phone,” she said. “But they were never around.”
Neighboring business told police the warehouse seemed unusual, with very little activity, though people were sometimes seen there.
“It didn’t seem like a normal business,” Reilly said.
Officials had a lot of investigating yet to do, Reilly said Thursday afternoon.
“Who knows?” he said. “Maybe this one will lead us to another.”