TEMPLE CITY >> A house fire that ignited Tuesday, blew out windows and caused about $152,500 in damages is believed to have been caused by the manufacture of concentrated cannabis, also known as “honey oil,” authorities said.
The blaze was first reported shortly after 8 p.m. at a home in the 9800 block of Garibaldi Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire officials said.
Firefighters found butane bottles and turned over the case to the sheriff’s Temple station, fire Inspector Rick Flores said.
Butane is commonly used in process of concentrating marijuana into a more potent forms.
Investigators labeled the incident a “reckless fire,” believed caused by, “the manufacture of a controlled substance,” sheriff’s Lt. Ismael Chavez said.
Flores said nobody was home when firefighters arrived. Windows were blown out and the fire spread throughout the house, he said.
Firefighters put out the blaze at 8:21 p.m.
Flores estimated damages to the structure at $150,000 and the $2,500 to the contents.
No suspects were in custody in connection with the incident Wednesday, Chavez said.
– Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
SOUTH EL MONTE >> Officers arrested two people and discovered more than 700 marijuana plants growing in a vacant business on Thursday.
Covina Police Sgt. Jim McDonough said officers served a search warrant about 1 p.m. at the secluded, seemingly vacant business in 2600 block of Chico Avenue in South El Monte.
George Almaguer, 26, Pico Rivera and Jenny Ly, 31, of Rosemead were arrested at the scene, he said. They were booked on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and theft of electricity, as the sophisticated hydroponic grow operation was wired to bypass the electrical meter and steal its power directly from the Southern California Edison grid, the sergeant said.
Police estimated the grow operation had stolen at least $10,000 worth of electricity from the utility over the past year.
“There were three different rooms, each for different stages of growth,” the sergeant said. In all, police seized 733 pot plants from the buidling.
Investigators seized about $2,000 in suspected drug money that Almaguer was carrying, McDonough added.
The building where the pot grow was uprooted Thursday was situated at the rear of a lot that was secured with a padlocked gate, McDonough said.
Thursday’s bust was related to another investigation where a grow house was found in Covina on May 26, police said.
In the May incident, officers responding to call of several downed power lines smelled marijuana coming from a house in the 200 block of North Larkin Drive. More than 200 marijuana plants were found on the Larkin Drive residence.
That investigation led to Thursday’s search and arrests in South El Monte, though McDonough declined to say exactly how detectives identified the South El Monte address as a suspected grow operation. The investigation was ongoing.
A suspect has been identified in connection with the Larkin Drive grow house, however no arrests have been made, McDonough said.
– By Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
PHOTOS courtesy of the Covina Police Department
PASADENA — Pasadena police seized about 200 marijuana plants that were growing inside a commercial building earlier this week, officials said Sunday.
The bust on Altadena Drive, just north of Colorado Boulevard, resulted from an anonymous caller who reported a “strong odor of marijuana emitting from the building,” Wednesday, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said in his weekly letter to the community.
An officer identified the source of the odor in a commercial unit and turned the investigation over to detectives, the chief said.
After obtaining a search warrant, officers entered the building and found about 200 pot plants, Sanchez said.
“The farm was a very sophisticated hydroponic system,” he wrote.
NO arrested were made during the search, Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said. The investigation was ongoing.
Police in Monrovia uprooted 600 marijuana plants and seized and two pounds of dried pot the same day from a Monrovia house after a resident reported smelling marijuana emanating from the home.
Arcadia police arrested a man Monday who was allegedly growing about 135 marijuana plants in a residence, Arcadia police officials said in a press release.
Tiv Ke Roeung, 40, of Arcadia was arrested for cultivation, officials said.
Roeung is being held at Arcadia Police Department’s jail in lieu of $30,000 bail.
Officers received a tip about a possible grow house in the 500 block of West Huntington Drive, officials said.
Police discovered the plants about 3 p.m. Monday inside the garage of the residence.
“The garage was converted into a marijuana cultivation area with lighting, ventilation, electrical wiring, irrigation, and drying bins strewn throughout the bottom level of the residence,” officials said.
In addition to his arrest, Roeung is also being held without bail on an immigration hold by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, officials said.
He has a scheduled appearance Wednesday at Pasadena Municipal Court, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department booking system.
Monday’s bust was the second time Arcadia police raided an indoor marijuana farm in two days.
Officers seized 438 pot plants and arrested a suspect Saturday at a home in the 2000 block of South Sixth Avenue.
— Venusse Navid and Brian Day
ARCADIA — Police seized more than 400 marijuana plants from an Arcadia home late Saturday and arrested a 60-year-old man in connection with the indoor pot garden, officials said.
Yong Fa Jiang of Arcadia was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, according to Arcadia police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The bust came about 10 p.m. after police officers patrolling the area spotted a “suspicious vehicle” parked along the street in the 2000 block of South Sixth Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen said in a written statement.
“Officers contacted a person near the vehicle, and their preliminary investigation revealed that a marijuana cultivation operation was being conducted inside a nearby house,” Cullen said.
Further detail regarding what tipped off police to the grow house were not available.
“The grow consisted of several rooms with lighting, ventilation, and electrical wiring run throughout the house,“ Cullen said.
Police ultimately uprooted 438 marijuana plants, “in various stages of growth,” Sgt. Dan Crowther said.
Jiang was released from jail Sunday morning after posting $10,000 bail, records show.
Arcadia police detectives are handling the investigation, and anyone with information was asked to contact the Arcadia Police Department and reference case 14-3018. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
COVINA >> A minor hit-and-run traffic collision led Covina police to discover 120 pounds of marijuana inside a pickup truck being driven by a Mexican national Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
Saul Ernesto Chavez, 32, who told police he is from Tijuana, Mexico, was ultimately arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sales, transportation of marijuana, hit-and-run and driving without a license, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
He was involved in a minor crash with another motorist about 1:15 p.m. at Barranca Avenue and Rowland Street, Covina police Sgt. Rob Bobkiewicz said. No one was injured in the crash, but one of the drivers — later identified as Chavez — ran from the crash scene.
Police set up a search perimeter and soon found Chavez hiding in a nearby backyard, Bobkiewicz said. After arresting Chavez on suspicion of hit-and-run, police searched the small pickup truck he had been driving.
In the covered bed of the pickup truck, police found six 20-pound bundles of marijuana, officials said. The pot had an estimated street value of $240,000.
Chavez did not cooperate with investigators, Bobkiewicz said.
According to booking records, he was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Covina Police Department.
WEST COVINA >> Police uprooted about 700 marijuana plants valued at $1.5 million Saturday after real estate agents visiting a home for sale in West Covina stumbled upon a large marijuana growing operation Saturday, officials said.
The illicit garden was found about 1:30 p.m., concealed within a home in the 2400 block of Felicia Street, just southwest of Amar Road and Nogales Street, West Covina Police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
“The home is apparently up for sale,” the lieutenant said. Real estate agents who stopped by the home notified police of the pot plants growing inside.
Police obtained a search warrant before removing the plants and equipment from the house.
The home, which Patton described as “an exceptionally large marijuana grow,” was outfitted with extensive lighting and irrigation equipment.
No arrests had been made Saturday afternoon, and police were still looking into who was responsible for the home Sunday.
It initially appeared the home was owned by an absentee landlord who was unaware of the marijuana growing operation, Patton said.
One neighbor, who asked not to be identified for fear of possible retaliation, said she didn’t recall seeing anyone at the home, but the interior lights were often on in the middle of the night.
“We don’t see anybody there going in and out, even cars,” the neighbor said.
“It’s scary,” she added. “We don’t know who our neighbors are.”
LA PUENTE — Deputies raided a Hacienda Boulevard business Wednesday afternoon, uprooting about 600 marijuana plants and arresting one suspect, authorities said.
An ongoing investigating culminated about 2 p.m. when deputies from the sheriff’s Industry Station narcotics team and the La Puente Special Assignment Team arrived at a business in the 1000 block of Hacienda Boulevard, between Amar Road and Fairgrove Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said.
In addition to the marijuana plants, deputies seized lights, irrigation systems and other equipment used to grow the pot. Sgt. Alex Radovic of the sheriff’s Industry Station narcotics team described the scene as “a sophisticated grow operation.”
The name of the man arrested was not available Wednesday afternoon as detectives sought additional suspects, Cacheiro said. He was accused of cultivating marijuana.
La Puente Mayor Charlie Klinakis commended the work of the deputies, saying it signified a good example of active policing and intelligence-based investigations.
“We’re not waiting for the bad guys to come to us,” the mayor said. “We’re seeking them out and we’ll prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Arcadia police is investigating a marijuana “grow house” found Monday during an electrical fire call, Sgt. Jason Davis said.
Arcadia fire and police responded to a call at 8:49 a.m. about a transformer on fire at a residence in the 2400 block of Louise Avenue, Davis said.
When first responders arrived, they found a small roof fire caused by wires, officials said.
“In an attempt to locate persons inside the residence and get them to safety, officers made entry into the house and observed numerous marijuana plants in different stages of cultivation,” Davis said in a written statement. Officers then summoned detectives to the scene.
“Detectives searched the residence and recovered 2,489 live marijuana plants along with sophisticated growing equipment used for the cultivation of the crops,” Davis said.
Additionally, police found the home’s wiring had been rewired to bypass the Southern California Edison meter, effectively stealing it’s electricity from the utility, police said.
An SCE officials estimated between $16,000 and $20,000 worth of power had been stolen by the grow house, Davis said.
No one was at the home at the time of the fire, and no suspects had been arrested, police said.
Anyone with information, call the Arcadia Police Department at 626-574-5150. Anonymous tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-222-8477.
PHOTO courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department
– Venusse Navid and Brian Day
MONTEREY PARK — Police raided a Monterey Park home Friday, seizing more than 300 marijuana plants and arresting the resident on suspicion of cultivating the illicit crop, authorities said.
Bikram Singh Soni, 32, was being held in lieu of $165,000 bail Saturday pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in Alhambra Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
Officers from the Monterey Park Police Department’s Special Response Team had been keeping an eye on Soni’s home in the 1100 block of Dover Way for about a month before they arrested him about 2:25 p.m. Friday, officials said.
“Soni’s two-story residence was completely converted into an indoor grow operation with over 300 marijuana plants,” Monterey Park police officials said in a written statement. The plants amounted to about 55 pounds of pot.
The investigation began based on anonymous tips reporting suspicious activity in the neighborhood, Sgt. Frank Duke said.
Officers confirmed suspicious activity, such as people only coming and going at night and the blinds always remaining shut, and noted the odor of marijuana emanating from the home, Duke said.
Officials red-tagged the home due to damage caused by the conversion to an indoor gardening operation, the sergeant said. Walls had been removed and the electrical system had been jerry-rigged.
In addition to the drug charges, officials were also investigating Soni for stealing electricity from Southern California Edison by bypassing the home’s electrical meter, the sergeant added.
Soni was renting the home where he was the sole resident, Duke said.
The owners were not believed to be aware of the marijuana growing operation, he added.
“At this time, we believe they’re victims,” he said.
PHOTO of Bikram Singh Soni, 32, of Monterey Park courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department.