MONROVIA — A 29-year-old store clerk arrested for allegedly selling marijuana to undercover investigators at a liquor store in Monrovia was freed on bail Saturday, officials said.Johnny Souhiel Khalil of Burbank was arrested Thursday on suspicion of possession and sales of marijuana and attempting to purchase and receive stolen property, said John Carr of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.“Authorities arrested Khalil following an ongoing investigation,” Carr said. “Khalil sold, gave away or facilitated the sale of marijuana to undercover investigators on three separate occasions.”Khalil also allegedly negotiated the sale and purchase of property he believed was stolen, Carr said.After seeing possible illegal activity, ABC investigators went undercover at House of Spirits at 501 W. Duarte Road, Carr said.“In addition to the criminal charges against the suspect involved, the department expects to file accusations against the licensee,” Carr said.Khalil, who was held on $20,000 bail, was released just after midnight, according to sheriff’s booking records.
From the Associated Press:
SAN DIEGO — A sophisticated cross-border tunnel equipped with a rail system, ventilation and fluorescent lighting has been shut down by U.S. and Mexican officials — the second discovery of a major underground drug passage in San Diego this month, authorities said Friday.
The tunnel found Thursday is 2,200 feet long — more than seven football fields — and runs from the kitchen of a home in Tijuana, Mexico, to two warehouses in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial district, said Mike Unzueta, head of investigations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego.
In Mexico, the tunnel’s cinderblock-lined entry dropped 80 to 90 feet to a wood-lined floor, Unzueta said. From the U.S. side, there was a stairway leading to a room about 50 feet underground that was full of marijuana.
“It’s a lot like how the ancient Egyptians buried the kings and queens,” Unzueta said.
Authorities seized more than 20 tons of marijuana.
Unzueta said the tunnel discovered Thursday and another found in early November are believed to be the work of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, headed by that country’s most-wanted drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
“We think ultimately they are controlled by the same overall cartel but that the tunnels were being managed and run independently by different cells operating within the same organization,” Unzueta said.
The passage found Thursday is one of the most advanced to date, with an entry shaft in Mexico lined with cinderblocks and a rail system for drugs to be carried on a small cart, Unzueta said.
Three men were arrested in the United States, and the Mexican military raided a ranch in Mexico and made five arrests in connection with the tunnel, authorities said.
U.S. authorities have discovered more than 125 clandestine tunnels along the Mexican border since the early 1990s, though many were crude and incomplete.
U.S. authorities do not know how long the latest tunnel was operating. Unzueta said investigators began to look into several warehouses in June on a tip that emerged from a large bust of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
U.S. authorities followed a trailer from one of the warehouses to a Border Patrol checkpoint in Temecula, where they seized 27,600 pounds of marijuana. The driver, whose name was not released, was arrested, along with two others who went to a residence in suburban El Cajon that had $13,500 cash inside.
“That (trailer) was literally filled top to bottom, front to back,” Unzueta said. “There wasn’t any room for anything else in that tractor-trailer but air.”
Three tons of marijuana were found in a “subterranean room” and elsewhere in the tunnel on the U.S. side, authorities said.
Mexican officials seized four tons of pot at a ranch in northern Mexico, bringing the total haul to more than 20 tons.
The discovery of the cross-border tunnel earlier this month marked one of the largest marijuana seizures in the United States, with agents confiscating 20 tons of marijuana they said was smuggled through the underground passage. One of the warehouses involved in the tunnel discovered Thursday is only a half-block away.
Several sophisticated tunnels have ended in San Diego warehouses. ICE began meeting with landowners last month to warn them about leasing space to tunnel builders.
“These owners of warehouses, they need to know their customers, they need to know who’s in there leasing these things,” Unzueta said.
PHOTOS: Investigators crawl through the recently discovered drug-smuggling tunnel and guard of marijuana seized during the operation. (Courtesy of ICE)
A group of five medical marijuana dispensaries, including one in Covina, raided by authorities Wednesday were targeted because the operators were allegedly turning a profit from the establishments in violation of state medical marijuana laws.
Eleven people were arrested in connection with the operation, which took place Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.
The Alternative Medicine Collective of Covina, 20050 E. Arrow Highway, Suite B, was forced to close its doors after a multi-agency task force seized its products, along with four other dispensaries in the four-county operation, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. No one at the Covina dispensary was arrested.
Under California’s Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, medical marijuana dispensaries are only allowed to operate as non-profits, Capt. Ralph Ornelas of the Sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau said.
“This organization was definitely working outside the law,” he said.
“Our investigation proved they were charging people and making a profit out of it,” Ornelas said. “You’re not supposed to make a profit.”
Authorities also searched an Alhambra home in the 1600 block of Curtis Avenue, though no evidence was seized, the captain said.
Erik Andresen, 35, of Seal Beach was arrested as the “primary suspect” in the case against the five dispensaries, Ornelas said.
He was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana and another marijuana-related offense at the sheriff’s Norwalk Station, according to a jailer. He was released Thursday after posting $100,000 bail.
Andresen said he serves as an adviser for the organization of patients involved and denied any wrongdoing.
“We are a group of patients who are together, collectively, to provide medicine for sick people,” he said.
Andresen said the dispensaries did not make a profit.
“You’re allowed to be reimbursed for your time,” he said. He declined to say how much money he has received in compensation, but described it as “piddly.”
“I don’t own a home,” he said.
Andresen added that the collectives generally give excess marijuana free of charge to their sickest patients.
“We don’t turn a profit because be give away any extra proceeds,” he said.
The names of the other 10 people arrested on drug related charges were not available Thursday, Ornelas said.
In all, the multi-agency task force searched five marijuana dispensaries, one cultivation site, two processing sites, seven homes and a sailboat, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Ornelas said they were located in Covina, Alhambra, Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Fullerton, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and Palm Springs, Ornelas said.
In addition to the Covina establishment, the medical marijuana dispensaries raided Wednesday included the Palm Springs Holistic Collective, the Riverside Compassionate Wellness Center, the San Diego Holistic Collective, and the Compassionate Medical Collective in San Diego, Ornelas said.
Andresen said that as far as he knows, only one dispensary in San Diego is affiliated with his patient group.
Officials seized 35 marijuana plants, valued at $70,000; 78 pounds of processed pot, valued at $234,000; seven gallons of concentrated cannabis oils, valued at $44,800; about 4,000 pre-packaged, marijuana-laced edible products; hydroponic growing equipment and chemicals; and about $20,000 in cash, according to the sheriff’s statement.
The edible products included, “Lolly pops, ice pops, candy bars, brownies — all that stuff,” Ornelas said.
He said sheriff’s narcotics officials are looking into requesting agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration to get involved.
Andresen said he would have no problem cooperating with health regulations governing edible marijuana products.
From City News Service:
BEVERLY HILLS — A man suspected of killing three men in a West Hollywood apartment for several thousand dollars of marijuana was charged Wednesday with three counts of capital murder.
Harold Yong Park, who could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted, made his first
court appearance this afternoon in Beverly Hills Superior Court, but did not enter a plea.
The 31-year-old defendant is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 14 on charges stemming from the shooting deaths of Pirooz Moussazadeh, 27, his 38- year-old brother Shahriar and Bernard Khalili, 27. Their bodies were found Thursday night in an apartment in the 600 block of North Kings Road, near Melrose Avenue.
The charges include special circumstance allegations of murder during a robbery and a
burglary, murder for financial gain and multiple murders.
Prosecutors will make a decision about seeking the death penalty later.
Park also is charged with three counts of robbery and one count each of burglary and transporting marijuana for sale.
Lt. Pat Nelson told a news conference in front of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau in
Monterey Park that Park’s “original arrival at that location was for the purpose of purchasing several thousand dollars of marijuana. Unfortunately the deal didn’t go as he had hoped, I’m sure, and three people lost their lives as a result of it.”
Sheriff Lee Baca said the case proved the dangers of medical marijuana, claiming that the
medical marijuana business has become a magnet for crimes such as this.
“Is it no surprise that people are going to get killed behind this kind of easy profit. Drugs,
violence go together. High profits, violence go together,” said Baca, named today as a
co-chair of the campaign opposing Proposition 19, the November ballot measure that would
legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
Sheriff’s deputies used a license plate scanner to track down Park, who was arrested about 11 a.m. Monday in Lomita during a traffic stop. Deputies said they found several pounds of
marijuana in the vehicle.
Sheriff’s Capt. Ronene Anda said the device “can scan thousands of license plates in just
moments. It’s times like this which absolutely proves its worthiness.”
ARCADIA — A rape investigation led police to discover nearly 60 marijuana plants growing inside an Arcadia home, authorities said Friday.
A 24-year-old woman arrived at the Arcadia Police Department about 3 p.m. Wednesday to report she had been raped by an acquaintance at a home in the 1000 block of Alta Vista Avenue, Arcadia police said in a written statement.
“The male suspect accompanied the victim to APD and after interviews were conducted, officers arrested the male,” Sgt. Tom Le Veque said.
Marc Romo, 35, of Arcadia, was booked on suspicion of rape and an unrelated warrant, the sergeant added.
“During a search of the incident location, officers discovered an indoor, hydroponic, marijuana grow,” Le Veque said. “Officers seized approximately 57 marijuana plants in various stages of growth along with equipment used for the cultivation.”
No arrested had been made in connection with the marijuana growing operation Friday, police said. It remained under investigation, and no further information was released.
According to sheriff’s booking records, Romo was being held in lieu of $150,000 bail and was due for arraignment Friday in Pasadena Superior Court. An update on his case was not available.
As seen here in Ruby Gonzales’ article in the Whittier Daily News, Whittier police have released startling footage of a failed robbery at a Santa Fe Springs medical marijuana dispensary on Aug. 10. The video shows a good view of the robbers, as well as the security guard struggling with the armed intruders.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — Authorities uprooted about $35 million worth of marijuana plants from dozens of sites in the Angeles National Forest north of Azusa Friday, sheriff’s officials said.
A multi-agency task force took the plants from pre-identified marijuana grows, Capt. Ralph Ornelas of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau said in a written statement.
“The team simultaneously entered three mountainous canyons,” the captain said.
“The team eradicated a total of 17,493 illicit marijuana plants from public lands,” he added. “The sites included extensive irrigation systems and campsites,” the captain said.
No arrested were made during the operation, sheriff’s officials said.
In addition to the pot, about 950 pounds of refuse was removed from the marijuana gardens, Ornelas said. It included hazardous chemical fertilizers, pesticides, spraying equipment, propane tanks, food and live ammunition, authorities said.
One extensive grow site was found near Rincon Road, “and abutted a popular local fishing and hiking recreation area where a number of families were currently swimming and camping,” Ornelas said.
Sheriff’s officials warned the public to be wary of illicit marijuana grows on public lands.
“Suspects often use firearms and even bobby traps to guard their plants from law enforcement and competing criminal elements,” Ornelas said. “Additionally, many of the fertilizers and pesticides encountered in illicit farming operations are highly toxic to people and may contaminate nearby water sources.”
Officials repaired damage to three streams, which had been artificially dammed, and pulled out extensive irrigation systems that were depriving water from native plants and animals to supply the marijuana plants.
Friday’s operation involved the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Since May, authorities have removed more than 126,000 marijuana plants from public lands in Los Angeles County, officials said, valued at more than $253 million.