Two suspects and dog burned fire at alleged ‘honey oil’ lab at South El Monte motel

SOUTH EL MONTE >> Two men and a dog suffered burns when a fire broke out at a hash oil extraction lab operating out of a South El Monte motel early Sunday, authorities said. A third, possibly injured suspect was believed to be at large.
Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters responding to reports of a structure fire about 12:40 a.m. encountered several rooms ablaze at the Motel 6, 1228 Durfee Ave., according to Deputy Lisa Jansen of the sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames, she said. Two men, as well as a dog, suffered burns in the fire.
One of the men suffered major burn injuries, while the second man’s injuries appeared less severe, Sgt. James Long said. An update on their conditions was not available.
“Detectives from Arson-Explosives Detail responded and, based on recovered evidence, determined there was a possible ‘honey oil’ marijuana extraction laboratory at the location,” Jansen said in a written statement. Deputies seized equipment associated with the alleged hash oil extraction.
Officials took the two suspects to a hospital to receive treatment prior to facing potential criminal charges, officials said. The injured dog was taken to a veterinary hospital in unknown condition.
“Investigators believe another suspect, with possible burn injuries, may have left the location prior to their arrival,” Jansen said.
Deputies found scorched clothing believed to have been shed by the third suspect before fleeing the scene, Long said. No description of the man was available.
Officials estimated that the fire caused $80,000 worth of damage to the motel.
Detectives from the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force’s Clandestine Laboratory Team responded to the scene and is spearheading the investigation.
Anyone with information is urged to contact LA IMPACT at 323-869-6874. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Officer follows nose to marijuana grow in Covina: Hacienda Heights man jailed

COVINA >> A “strong smell of marijuana” led police to discover a pot grow and hash lab, as well as other drugs, inside a commercial building in Covina on Saturday, officials said.
Michael Ray Valdez, 28, of Hacienda Heights was arrested on suspicion of drug manufacturing, identity theft and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The bust took place about 2:40 a.m. after a patrol officer stopped to talk to two “suspicious persons” hanging out near a commercial building in the 1000 block of East Edna Place, Covina police said in a written statement.
“During the investigation, the strong smell of marijuana was noticed coming from inside the building and the subjects admitted that marijuana was being grown inside in the industrial building,” according to the statement.
Officer uprooted 120 marijuana plants from the building, as well as marijuana that had already been harvested, authorities said.
“Evidence that the marijuana was being processed into hash, hash oil and wax was also found at the location, along with evidence of methamphetamine use and hallucinogenic mushrooms,” the statement said.
Police said the owner of the businesses admitted knowing about the marijuana grow, but denied having anything to do with the other drugs. He was not arrested as the investigation continues.
According to booking records, Valdez was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Covina Police Department

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Pomona police seize 6 guns, 5 pounds of marijuana during raid; ex-con arrested

POMONA >> A police task force carried out a raid at a Pomona home Friday, resulting in the seizure of six guns, 500 rounds of ammunition and five pounds of marijuana from a convicted felon.
Joseph Michael Cesena, 39, was boked on suspicion of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm following his arrest, which took place shortly after noon at a home in the 2500 block of Cathy Avenue, Cpl. J Martinez of the Pomona Police Department’s Major Crimes Task Force said in a written statement.
“During the service of the warrant, Officers located six firearms in the residence in addition to over 500 live ammunition rounds (various calibers) and over five pounds of marijuana,” Martinez said.
The seized weapons included two pistols, a shotgun and three rifles.
San Bernardino Superior Court records show Cesena was convicted of felony domestic violence in 2011, and is therefore barred from possessing firearms or ammunition.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Cesena was released from custody Friday afternoon pending his initial court appearance after posting a $35,000 bond.
“It is the continued mission of the Major Crimes Task Force to seek out and apprehend individuals involved in gang and violent related criminal activity,” Martinez said. “The MCTF is dedicated to the safety of our citizens through the reduction of gang violence throughout our community by proactive and preventative enforcement.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the task force at 909-620-2148. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Stolen car leads to marijuana grow house in Arcadia


ARCADIA >> A stolen car investigation led police to discover 600 marijuana plants growing inside an Arcadia home and arrest two suspects on Friday, officials said.
The series of events began about 10:30 a.m., when officers spotted a stolen car parked in the 200 block of West Palm Avenue, according to Arcadia police Lt. Roy Nakamura.
Police watched the car until a man exited a nearby home, got into the car and drove off, the lieutenant said.
Officers tried to pull the driver over, but he fled, initiating a chase.
Police briefly pursued the car before cancelling the chase due to safety concerns, Nakamura said. Officials soon found the stolen car abandoned in the 2000 block of St. James Drive in Temple City, but the driver remained at large.
As officers continued their investigation back at the home from which the suspect emerged, they found “an active marijuana grow operation involving approximately 600 plants,” according to Nakamura.
Two men at the home, identified as Ian Woodworth, 38, of Denver, Colorado and Wayne Chong, 49, of North Hollywood, were arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana, according to police and county booking records.
Chong was free on a $50,000 bond at the time of his arrest, according to county booking records.
Police in Arcadia arrested him Feb. 22 on suspicion of false impersonation of another, using a driver’s license to commit gforgery, possession of a document with a forged government seal and driving on a suspended license.
He posted bail the same day he was arrested. Charges were yet to be filed when he again found himself in handcuffs on Friday.
“At this time, it appears the cultivation is connected to the stolen vehicle,” Nakamura added.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5151. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Police: Whittier teen brandishes gun at man who confronted him for smoking marijuana at Alhambra Park

ALHAMBRA >> Police chased down and arrested a teenage boy from Whittier after he brandished a loaded, stolen handgun at a man who confronted him about smoking marijuana at Alhambra Park on Sunday afternoon, officials said.
Police responded to the park, 500 N. Palm Ave., about 2:35 p.m. after receiving a report of the incident, Alhambra police Cmdr. Jennifer Wiese said.
A man noticed the young suspect smoking marijuana at the park and confronted him about it, the commander said.
Undaunted, the teen lifted his shirt to display a handgun in his waistband, according to Wiese.
The teen ran when officers arrived at the park, but was soon captured nearby, Wiese said. It appeared he surrendered once he realized police had brought a K-9 to the scene to aid in the apprehension.
The .40-caliber pistol the boy was carrying had a loaded, high-capacity magazine and had been reported stolen in 2012, Wiese said.
He was booked on suspicion of numerous weapons charges including possession of a stolen handgun, possession of a concealed handgun in public, possession of a loaded handgun in public, possession of a high-capacity magazine and possession of a handgun by a minor.
Wiese said the teen was also on pronation for robbery, and is accused of violating the terms of his supervision.
Although voters legalized recreational marijuana for adults in California last November, it remains illegal to use or possess for those under 21 years old, and smoking the plant in public remains prohibited.

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Police seize 3,300 marijuana plants, meth, gun from El Monte warehouse; Walnut man jailed

EL MONTE >> Police jailed a convicted felon from Walnut early Friday after recovering 3,300 marijuana plants, 308 pounds of finished pot, an ounce of methamphetamine and a loaded gun from a warehouse in El Monte, authorities said.
Brian Lee Skipper, 46, was arrested during the 7 a.m. raid at a commercial building at 2645 Merced Ave., according to El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna. Investigators showed up with a search warrant, seeking an illicit marijuana-growing operation.
“Upon entry, police personnel located (Skipper) and numerous pieces of equipment and devices used for the cultivation of marijuana and concentrated cannabis,” Luna said in a written statement, “In addition, detectives located methamphetamine, a loaded firearm and surveillance and security equipment.”
Police also found “numerous types of hazardous chemicals” used in the production of concentrated cannabis, also known as “wax” or “honey oil.”
“As a result, the location was vacated and additional investigators from the L.A. Impact Narcotics Team and Los Angeles County Hazardous Materials responded,” Luna said. “An additional investigation was completed as well as a cleanup which rendered the property safe.”
Police also allege the grow operation was wired to bypass the electric meter and steal power from the grid.
Skipper was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sales, operating a chemical drug lab, possession of methamphetamine for sale, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and theft of utility services.
The seized marijuana and methamphetamine carry an estimated street value of $750,000, Luna said.
Skipper, a convicted felon who was on active probation, was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Skipper just pleaded guilty in January of Possession of methamphetamine for sale and theft of utlities in a case first filed in 2014, according to San Bernardino Superior Court records. He also admitted a prior drug offense. Additional charges of cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sales were dismissed.
He was also convicted in San Bernardino County of domestic abuse in June of 2006, and of making criminal threats in 2001, records show.
In Los Angeles County, Skipper’s criminal history stretches from 1989 to 2011 and includes convictions for drug possession, assault and battery, an illegal weapon violation and driving on a suspended or revoked license.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact El Monte police at 626-580-2100, or by email at tips@empd.org.

PHOTO of Brian Lee Skipper, 46, of Walnut courtesy of the El Monte Police Department

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Deputies raid marijuana grow inside Temple City home

TEMPLE CITY >> Deputies seized about 400 marijuana plants and 15 pounds of harvested pot while carrying out a search warrant at a Temple City home early Thursday, officials said.
The bust took place Thursday morning at a home in the 5400 block of McCulloch Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“(Deputies) recovered approximately 400 plants in various stages of growth and approximately 15 pounds of harvested marijuana,” the statement said.
The grow operation was complete with lighting, watering and ventilation systems, and the home was rewired to bypass the electrical meter, allowing the farmers to steal their power from Southern California Edison, according to the statement.
Officials reported no arrests in connection with the raid.
The operation took place one day after police in San Gabriel uprooted nearly 7,000 pot plants from a commercial building in their jurisdiction and arrested two suspects.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Nearly 7,000 marijuana plants seized from San Gabriel commercial building, 2 suspects jailed

SAN GABRIEL >> Police uprooted nearly 7,000 marijuana plants and arrested two men on Wednesday after raiding two separate indoor marijuana grow operations inside the same massive commercial building, officials said.
Investigators showed up with a search warrant about 7 a.m. at the 42,000-square-foot building at 100 S. South Gabriel Blvd., according to San Gabriel police Lt. Brian Kott. The building was formerly used as a major auto dealership.
Officers first discovered an illicit pot farm of about 4,200 plants inside a portion of the property formerly used for auto repairs when the structure was an auto dealership, the lieutenant said in a written statement. The operation was complete with artificial lighting, as well as “sophisticated hydroponic and ventilation systems.”
Phong Day Ung, 36, of Rosemead was found working at the grow operation and arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana, Kott said.
“As detectives continued their search of the property, another separate marijuana grow was found hidden inside a building directly under the main office at the northwest portion of the premises,” Kott said.
There were no visible entry points into the grow operation, save for a secret interior passageway to the upstairs office, police said. More than 2.600 pot plants were found growing inside several fabricated rooms inside the second grow site, where 34-year-old Yuntong Zheng of Monterey Park was arrested on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana as he returned to the scene as the investigation continued, Kott said.
It was not clear Wednesday whether the two marijuana grows were linked, or merely a coincidence.
Wednesday’s bust was the result of a two-week-long investigation spawned by an anonymous tip from a citizen, Kott said.

PHOTOS courtesy of the San Gabriel Police Department

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Police: Carjacked big rig full of marijuana leads to Pomona indoor pot grow


POMONA >> A group of men carjacked a big rig containing more than half a ton of marijuana late Friday before leading police to an illicit marijuana grow at a Pomona home, police said.
Three men were arrested in connection with the carjacking, as well as on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and possessing pot for sales, according to Pomona police Sgt. Dennis Cooper. The victims of the carjacking were also ultimately arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sales.
“Although the investigation is still ongoing, it appears this was possibly a prearranged meeting between both parties and a drug deal gone wrong,” Cooper said in a written statement.
The armed carjacking unfolded about 11:45 p.m. at Mission Boulevard and Sorrento Drive, the sergeant said. Officers found the just-stolen truck and trailer a short time later in the 700 block of Washington Ave.
“The suspects were observed by the police helicopter unloading the trailer and throwing large bags into the backyard of the residence,” Cooper said. “When Officers arrived and detained the suspects, they found that the trailer and bags contained approximately 1,200 pounds of marijuana.”
Police got a search warrant for the home and soon discovered 240 marijuana plants growing inside, he said.
Arrested on suspicion of carjacking and possession of marijuana for sales were Tyler Brian Holthouser, 25, of Pomona and Xavier Leroy Blackmon, 26, of Victorville, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records. James Holthouser, 34, of Pomona is accused of conspiracy to commit carjacking and possession of marijuana for sales.
The two carjacking victims — Timothy Alan Frerich, 39, of Redding and Dennis Young, 40, of Redding — were booked on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sales.
Tyler Holthouser, James Holthouser, Frerich and Young were being held in lieu of $100,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances, records show. Blackmon was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Anyone with information can reach Pomona police at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man severely burned in fire at suspected ‘honey oil’ lab in Altadena

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ALTADENA >> A man suffered burns to 40 percent of his body after an explosion and fire at an Altadena home being used to extract concentrated hash oil from marijuana, authorities said.
Deputies were first summoned to the 1800 block of E. Midwick Drive about 4:10 p.m. by reports of a person heard screaming, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“When they arrived they saw a male adult badly burned and flames coming from the rear of a house,” according to the statement.
After Los Angeles County firefighters extinguished the fire and treated the victim, deputies discovered a large number of “containers and equipment” which they recognized as part of a manufacturing lab used to extract THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, from plants, authorities said. “Several windows of the house were blown out, possibly from an explosion.”
The process to extract concentrated THC oil, also known as “honey oil,” from marijuana plants often involves highly flammable liquids.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous materials team, sheriff’s narcotics detectives and U.S. Department of Justice officials investigated and decontaminated the scene in a process that lasted through 6 a.m. Saturday morning, officials said.
The badly burned man was taken to a hospital with severe burns covering about 40 percent of his body.
The man, whose name was not available, may face several criminal charges in connection with the alleged honey oil lab.

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PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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