West Covina man accused of growing pot inside Glendora business suites

A West Covina man is accused of cultivation of marijuana after authorities discovered about 400 plants growing inside two business suites which investigators said were a front for the pot-growing operation.
Jose Angel Marquez, 29, was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana following his arrest, which took place just after midnight, according to Glendora police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Officers carrying out a narcotics investigation spotted Marquez driving away from the nondescript business suites late Wednesday and pulled him over, Glendora police Lt. Brian Summers said.
Officers found a small amount of marijuana in his possession, but returned to the adjacent businesses a short time later with a search warrant, the lieutenant said.
“Over 400 marijuana plants in various stages of maturity were recovered, along with other materials used to cultivate the plants,” Police said in the written statement.
Had the plants all been allowed to mature, the value of the marijuana could be as high as $350,000, Summer said.
“The investigation revealed Marquez was using the business suites as a front for marijuana cultivation,” according to the police statement.
Officials were also summoned to the scene to look into potential code violations or hazards at the businesses, police added.
According to county booking records, Marquez was released from jail Thursday morning pending his initial court appearance after posting $100,000 bail.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department

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San Gabriel Valley residents accused of three-county pot growing operation

Authorities on Wednesday arrested ten people – nine from the San Gabriel Valley – for allegedly operating marijuana grow houses in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
More than $250,000, over 8,000 marijuana plants and seven weapons including an assault rifle were also seized after state and federal agencies served search warrants at 26 locations.
The suspects allegedly belong to a drug trafficking group reportedly led by an Arcadia man.
The organization bought or leased single-family homes which were converted to raise marijuana indoors, according to federal court documents. Each house contained, on average, 1,000 to 2,000 marijuana plants. The marijuana was sold in California and across the country.
Eleven people were charged with conspiracy to manufacture, to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. One suspect is a fugitive.
Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S Attorney’s Office, said search warrants were served in Eastvale, Corona, Fontana, Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino, Diamond Bar, El Monte, Arcadia, Los Angeles, Monterey Park, Walnut and Temple City. He said 15 of those locations were marijuana grow houses.
The 10 arrested were:
- Raymond A. Lam, who also used the name “Nam A. Lam,” 42, of Arcadia. He is the alleged leader of the organization and supposedly oversaw buying the houses that were converted into industrial-type marijuana grow houses
- Simon Lam, 32, of Arcadia, a top lieutenant
- Ken Ho, also known as “Ken Lam,” 33, of Arcadia, a top lieutenant
- San S. Voong, also known as “Chen Sheng Wang,” 35, of Arcadia, another top lieutenant
- Phieu Tran, 35, of El Monte
- Augustine Bazan Camacho, 41, of Pomona, allegedly a veteran plant tender responsible for maintaining many of the grow houses
- Thanh Van Phu, 33, of El Monte
- Luc Kai Phoung, who is also known as “Wong Fong,” “Al Fong “ and “Na Na,” 50, of Rosemead, who allegedly built the electrical and utility meter by-pass systems used at the grow houses
- Steven Huytu Lam, 52, of Walnut
- Li Ya Si, 42, of Temple City.
Investigators are still looking for one suspect, 39-year-old Andy Tran of Monterey Park who is allegedly also a top lieutenant in the group.
The investigation was done by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

- Ruby Gonzales

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UPDATED: New arrests, details announced in Pasadena shotgun slaying that stemmed from alleged marijuana robbery

PASADENA — Police announced new arrests and charges Wednesday in the fatal shotgun shooting of a 21-year-old Pasadena man during a marijuana robbery earlier this month.
A total of five people have been charged in connection with the Jan. 15 shooting death of Zane Goldstein, which occurred after the victim and his brother met the suspects for a small-scale marijuana deal, Pasadena police officials said in a written statement.
Police Wednesday revealed that the fatal shooting stemmed from a planned marijuana sale.
“The shooting of the victim was precipitated by Zane Goldstein and his (24-year-old) brother arranging to meet one of the suspects to sell a nominal amount of marijuana,” according to Pasadena police Lt. Tracey Ibarra.
“During the contact, the suspects attempted to rob the victims and a shooting ultimately occurred,” Ibarra said.
The exact amount of marijuana involved in the transaction was not available, however Ibarra described it as “less than an ounce.”
The Goldstein brothers had just driven away from an alleyway behind a Holliston Avenue apartment complex where they had met the suspects when they were followed by a car, police said.
The fatal shooting then took place around the corner at Chester Avenue and Maple Street.
Raymond Conchas, 23, of Covina, John Michael Piepoli, 19, and Ruby Conchas, 20, joined two other suspects already in custody earlier this week, according to police officials and custody records.
Peter Parra, 35, of Pasadena, and Kevin Jessie Cabrera, 25, of North Hollywood were arrested last week and charged Friday in connection with the shooting, officials said. Raymond Conchas was also charged with the killing, though he was not yet in custody at the time.
Raymond Conchas turned himself in to police Monday afternoon, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records. He had been sought, along with 20-year-old Stephanie Jacquez, since murder and other charges were filed against him Friday and his photograph released to the public.
Jacquez turned herself in alongside Raymond Conchas, police said. She was ultimately released without charges.
Ruby Conchas, who was previously arrested and released without charges pending further investigation, was re-arrested Tuesday and charged with being an accessory after the fact to the slaying, Ibarra said.
Investigators early Tuesday arrested a fifth suspect in the case, identified as 19-year-old John Piepoli II, according to police and booking records.
Following Tuesday’s arrests, no additional suspects were being sought.
“We have everybody in custody,” Ibarra said.
A felony complaint filed against the five defendants outlines a conspiracy that began the day before Zane Goldstein was shot to death.
Raymond Conchas told Piepoli and another man who is not charged in the case Jan. 14 that he wanted to rob Goldstein, according to the complaint. He then ordered the two men to arrange a marijuana deal with Goldstein.
The uncharged man gave Goldstein Raymond Conchas’ cell phone number on Jan. 15, and Conchas contacted Goldstein via text message to arrange a meeting place for the deal, according to court documents.
Cabrera is accused of meeting the Goldstein brothers and luring them into a rear alleyway off Holliston Avenue.
Parra pointed a loaded shotgun at Zane Goldstein, according to the felony complaint.
Parra and Conchas then pursued the Goldstein brothers a short distance to the area of Maple Avenue and Chester Street, officials allege.
According to the complaint, “Parra shot the victim once in the head.”
Ruby Conchas pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of being an accessory after the fact, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said. She was due back in court Feb. 7.
In court documents, prosecutors allege she knowingly harbored, concealed and aided Raymond Conchas to help him avoid justice in the killing.
Parra, Cabrera, Raymond Conchas and John Piepoli all face charges of murder, with the special allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery, robbery, conspiracy, according to police and district attorney’s officials.
Parra, Cabrera and Raymond Conchas are also accused of gun enhancements, and the special allegation that the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
The special allegations make the four male suspects eligible for the death penalty, however prosecutors will not make a determination on whether to seek the death penalty until later in the legal process.
Parra, Cabrera and Conchas were scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 7 in Pasadena Superior Court, Robison said.
Piepoli was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday afternoon, however officials expected is arraignment to be continued to Feb. 7 to coincide with the other defendants.
A decision was pending Wednesday on whether charges would be filed against a 17-year-old Pasadena boy arrested the day after the shooting.

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Loud music complaint leads to indoor marijuana grow in Arcadia














ARCADIA — A complaint about loud music early Sunday led police to discover a “sophisticated” marijuana growing operation in an abandoned Arcadia home, authorities said.
Chuan Wu Pang, 30, of Alhambra was arrested in connection with the bust, which took place shortly after 2:30 a.m. in the 2500 block of South Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia police Sgt. Tom Le Veque said in a written statement.
“Arcadia detectives searched the home and found the majority of the residence being used as a sophisticated, indoor marijuana grow operation,” Le Veque said. “In excess of 500 marijuana plants were found in various staged of growth.”
It appeared the home’s electrical meter had been bypassed as well, allowing Pang to steal electricity from Southern California Edison’s grid, officials said.
“Every room, closet, hallway and usable space inside this approximately 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home was being used to facilitate the operation,” Le Veque said.
Police were first summoned to the home after someone called to report loud music, Le Veque said. Officers encountered Pang in front of the home, and he told officers he would lower the music.
“About an hour later, after learning the residence in question was reported to be abandoned, officers went back to the location and again contacted the lone male, still to the front of the home.”
When questioned, Pang told officers the house belonged to a friend, who gave him permission to be there, but he couldn’t recall the friend’s name, according to police.
The man then showed officers a key, which he demonstrated could be used to open the door.
“When the door was opened, officers saw items consistent with an indoor marijuana grow and smelled the overpowering odor of marijuana,” Le Veque added.
The home was secured, and detectives returned with a search warrant.
There was no evidence the marijuana was being grown in compliance with California medical marijuana laws, police added.
According to county booking records, Pang was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail at the Arcadia Police Department’s jail pending a scheduled arraignment Wednesday in Pasadena Superior Court.

PHOTO courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department

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UPDATED: Three badly burned in fire and explosion blamed on hash oil extraction

MONROVIA — Three men suffered major injuries early Sunday in a fire initially blamed on a small but powerful butane explosion stemming from the processing of marijuana into concentrated hash oil, authorities said.
The fire was first reported about 5 a.m. at a home in the 200 block of East Walnut Avenue, just west of Canyon Boulevard, Monrovia police Sgt. Don Newton said.
“A call came out of a structure fire with subjects trapped inside the house,” Newton said. Callers reported that one of the people inside the home was on fire.
Witnesses also reported hearing what they described as at least one explosion coming from the burning home, police said.
“The explosion was enough to actually move the ceiling and lift the ceiling itself, and move many of the contents of the room around,” Monrovia Fire Department Chief Christopher Donovan said.
Officers and firefighters arrived to find three badly injured burn victims, initially described as men in their 20s, the sergeant said. Two of them had escaped the home themselves prior to the arrival of police or fire, while the third got out just after officials arrived at the scene.
All three men were taken to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, where they were listed in critical condition, Donovan said.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation, the chief said, however it was initially believed to have been caused by the explosion of one of several spraypaint-sized cans of butane the men were using in a process to extract a concentrated form of hash known as “honey oil” from marijuana.
All three burn victims were in a back bedroom of the home, where the butane was, when it ignited, Donovan added.
Two of the injured men were believed to be residents of the home, Newton said, while the third was believed to be a visitor.
A man and woman who rent space in the home but were unrelated to the burn victims escaped the home without injury, Donovan said. They were inside a room toward the front of the home when the explosion occurred in the rear.
The amount of marijuana found at the home was not available.
Nearby homes were evacuated for several hours following the fire, however residents were allowed to return about 8 a.m., he added.
Officials from nearby police agencies joined Monrovia police and fire officials in the investigation.

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Electrical fire leads to indoor marijuana grow in Monterey Park

MONTEREY PARK — An electrical fire at a Monterey Park condominium led police to find an indoor marijuana growing operation Thursday, officials said.
Firefighters responded to a fire shortly before 3 p.m. at 528 N. Chandler Avenue, Monterey Park police officials said in a written statement.
Upon dousing the flames and checking the condominium for possible victims, officials discovered “a large number” of grown marijuana plants, along with chemicals and other items used to grow the pot, according to the police statement.
The number of plants uprooted was not available Sunday.
The fire was determined to be electrical in nature, police said. The electrical system of the home had been illegally re-wired to bypass the electrical meter.
No one was at the home when officials arrived, and the investigation was ongoing.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous materials team was called to the scene to identify and dispose of any potentially dangerous materials being used at the marijuana grow site.

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Vandalism call leads to marijuana grow house in Diamond Bar

DIAMOND BAR — Deputies checking out a vandalism call found an old marijuana grow house Thursday.
Sgt. John Stanley of the sheriff’s Walnut/Diamond Bar Station said a woman called about 1:30 p.m. and said someone vandalized her house in the 600 block of Hopi Street.
The woman was leasing out the property, he added.
Deputies didn’t find marijuana plants but equipment used in grow houses, Stanley said.
There were no further details.
Narcotics investigators didn’t return phone calls Thursday night.

- Ruby Gonzales

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UPDATEd: Another indoor marijuana grow discovered in Diamond Bar

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DIAMOND BAR — Deputies have discovered four indoor marijuana growing operations in Diamond Bar and Hacienda Heights in the past 10 days — all believed to be run by the run by the same two men. 
The latest, containing nearly 1,000 plants valued at $2 million — was discovered in Diamond Bar Wednesday evening, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Investigators believe that operation, on the 21000 block of Malad Court, was operated by the same two men who were arrested last week after indoor marijuana farms were discovered at three homes in Diamond Bar and Hacienda Heights.
The four homes were linked by “a common name that they were using to rent the houses,” Sgt. Kim McGee of the Sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau said.
Investigators do not believe the person whose name was used knew what was going on and was potentially a victim of identity theft, the sergeant said.
The owners of the homes were also not believed to be involved in the illicit farming operations, he added.
62599-DB Marijuana 10-11-12 2-thumb-300x169-62598.jpg
About 2000 marijuana plants were seized from the original three homes, along with about 20 pounds of already-harvested pot.
The total value of the marijuana collected during the four raids is estimated at about $8 million.
Also Wednesday, deputies searched a fifth house in the 23300 block of Gold Rush Drive in Diamond bar that had been rented by the men in the past month under the same false name as the other four homes, McGee said.
The home was empty and had no marijuana growing inside, however, investigators “believe they rented it for this purpose,” McGee said.
Binh Ly, 43, of Rosemead and Thanh Chiem, 45, of San Jose, were jailed Oct. 3 after deputies raided homes in the 23200 block of Forest Canyon Drive in Diamond Bar, the 20900 block of Running Branch Road in Diamond Bar and the 17000 block of Glenfold Drive in Hacienda Heights, sheriff’s officials said. No additional suspects were being sought Thursday.
All four homes had been wired to steal their electricity directly from Southern California Edison to power the elaborate light and irrigation systems used to grow the pot, officials added.
The sophisticated grow houses indicated experienced growers, McGee said.
Though none of the homeowners were suspected of knowing what their tenants were up to, McGee advised homeowners to “double-check and triple-check who they’re renting to.” 
“You can be a victim of an expensive rental agreement,” he said. 
Growers generally cause extensive damage to a home when using it as a marijuana grow operation, and the illegal electrical modifications that often accompany the grow operations create a major fire hazard, the sergeant said.
Ly posted $170,000 bail the day after he was arrested, according to jail officials. He is scheduled to appear in Pomona Superior Court Dec. 5. 
A case had not yet been filed against Chiem Thursday, as he was being held in federal custody without bail due to a hold placed on him by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, McGee said. Charges are expected to be filed against him next week, according to Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. 
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La Mirada man accused of robbing security guard at O.C. medical marijuana dispensary

A man appeared in Orange County Superior Court Tuesday in connection with the robbery of a Garden Grove medical marijuana dispensary after police arrested him over the weekend at his La Mirada home, where they also found guns and methamphetamine, authorities said.
Anthony Thomas Kim, 34, pleaded not guilty at the West Justice Center in Westminster to charges of robbery, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and dissuading a witness by force, according to Orange County court records. He’s additionally accused of the special allegation of using a gun during the robbery.
His brother, Paul Kim, 30, was also arrested on suspicion of drug and narcotics charges, Garden Grove police Lt. Jeff Nightengale said in a written statement.
The brothers were arrested Saturday when police investigators carried out a search at their home in the 15000 block of Barnwall Street, Garden Grove police Lt. Scott Watson said.
The robbery took place June 7 at the Garden Grove Patient’s Group, in the 13900 block of Harbor Boulevard, Nightengale said.
“The robbery was of the armed security guard who was working inside of the business,” the lieutenant said.
Anthony Kim was allegedly armed with a handgun when he entered the dispensary about 4:40 p.m. and held up the security guard.
“Taken in the robbery was the security guard’s duty belt with a loaded 9mm Ruger handgun, three loaded magazines, handcuffs, pepper spray and a collapsible baton,” Nightengale said. No cash or marijuana was taken, and no one at the business was hurt.
Following leads, which included surveillance footage of the robber getting into a pickup truck and leaving, led investigators to identify Anthony Kim as a suspect in the robbery, police said.
When officers arrived at the Barnwall Street home Saturday, they saw the vehicle that had been used in the crime was parked in the driveway, Nightengale said.
A search of the home turned up all of the items stolen from the security guard, as well as a .357-caliber revolver, an assault rifle with high-capacity magazines, methamphetamine and packaging supplies, police said.
“Also located were several police badges and police duty belts,” Nightengale added. “Investigators believe that these items might have been used in unreported robberies of medical marijuana dispensaries.”
Anthony Kim did not flash a badge or impersonate a police officers during last week’s robbery, officials said.
According to county booking records, Kim due back in court June 28 for a pre-trial hearing. He was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Paul Kim<USDEFAULT> was released from jail pending an initial court appearance after posting a bond.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Garden Grove police at 714-741-5704.
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Glendora medical marijuana dispensary raided

GLENDORA — DEA agents and Glendora police raided a medical marijuana dispensary on Arrow Highway Friday, seizing marijuana and cash and arresting two men for unrelated warrants, authorities said.
Heavily armed officials arrived at the Glendora Healing Center, 915 W. Arrow Highway, about 11 a.m. and forced their way in when a knock at the locked door was not immediately answered, Glendora police Lt. Tim Staab said.
“There was a joint investigation with Glendora P.D,” said DEA spokesman Jose Martinez. “Obviously, there was enough to obtain a federal warrant.”
Investigators continued to process evidence Friday, in order to turn it over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution, he said.
Officers and agents detained about seven customers and employees as they collected what ultimately amounted to more than 12 pounds of pot and 720 grams of marijuana-infused edible products, officials said.
Additionally, investigators seized about $5,000 in cash from the dispensary and an ATM machine inside, as well as “evidence of retail sales,” Staab said.
The lieutenant described the operation as “a thriving business.”
No arrests were made in connection with marijuana sales during the raid, however two men were arrested because of outstanding traffic warrants, DEA spokesman Jose Martinez said.
Agents were continuing to look into who was responsible for the marijuana dispensary, Martinez said.
Charles Fagan, who police said owns and leases out the property, declined to comment.
As the investigation continues, Staab said, it’s possible that DEA officials will seek to seize the property under federal law allowing properties used in drug crimes to be confiscated from the owners.
The dispensary opened in recent months and has since been sent written notices that Glendora has a city ordinance banning such establishments, Staab said. The ordinance, however, is being challenged in court, and the dispensary kept its doors open.
As the police investigation continued, DEA officials became aware of the dispensary and requested to take over, culminating in Friday’s search warrant, Staab said.
Because marijuana remains illegal federally, even those who operate in compliance with state medical marijuana laws such as California’s 1994 ballot initiative remain open to federal prosecution.
Earlier this week, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued a statement criticizing the federal government for cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries in state’s that have medical marijuana laws.
“Sixteen states, including our home state of California, and the District of Columbia have adopted medicinal marijuana laws — most by a vote of the people,” Pelosi said Wednesday.
“I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.”
STAFF photo by Walt Mancini
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