120 pounds of marijuana found in pickup truck in Covina; suspect jailed

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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.
0516_SGT-L-POTCRASH1In 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.

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UPDATED: Real estate agents discover marijuana growing inside West Covina home

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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.
20140426_191224 (1)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.”

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Deputies seize 600 marijuana plants from La Puente business

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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.”

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Fire leads officials to marijuana grow house in Arcadia

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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

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Police seize 300 marijuana plants from Monterey Park home, arrest resident

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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.

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Two accused of driving under the influence of marijuana after La Mirada checkpoint

LA MIRADA — Deputies arrested to driver’s accused of driving under the influence of marijuana during a DUI checkpoint late Saturday and early Sunday, officials said.
Officials screened all 1,768 drivers of the vehicles that passed through the checkpoint, held on Imperial Highway just east of Valley View Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
In addition to the two DUI arrests, five drivers with suspended or revoked licenses were arrested, along with seven unlicensed drivers, officials said.
Nine vehicles were impounded for one day, five vehicles were impounded for 30 days, and 10 vehicles were released to to other drivers per checkpoint procedures, officials added.

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Police: 1,500 pounds of marijuana, guns found in El Monte auto body shop

EL MONTE — A police task force searching for stolen cars Thursday instead discovered nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana inside an El Monte auto body shop, authorities said.
Three guns were also seized and one suspect was arrested during the bust, which took place about 6 p.m. at Professional Paint and Body, 3118 Maxson Road, El Monte police Sgt. Mark Snook said in a written statement.
Detectives from the Task Force for Regional Auto Theft Prevention were performing a compliance check at the business when they found marijuana, Snook said. El Monte police detectives were summoned to the scene.
“A search warrant was served at the location and (approximately) 1,483 pounds of marijuana was located, along with three firearms and narcotics packaging material,” Snook said.
A man was arrested, however police withheld his identity and the specific crimes he was arrested on suspicion of Saturday.
A telephone number listed as that of the business was not operational Saturday.
No further information was released.

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740 marijuana plants, more than 50 pounds of processed pot seized from Whittier business

WHITTIER — Police responding to a burglary call discovered 740 marijuana plants growing and more than 50 pounds of processed pot inside a business early Friday , authorities said.

Police responded to a burglary alarm in the 8100 block of Byron Road, just south of Washington Boulevard, at 2:06 a.m., Whittier police officials said in a written statement.

As officers were checking the area, they noticed the door to an adjacent business — Welded Fixtures, 8155 Byron Road — had been pried open, police said.

“They entered the business to make sure there were no suspects inside, and that’s when they found the marijuana grow,” White said. Officers secured the building and summoned detectives to the scene.

Police ultimately uprooted 740 marijuana plants, ranging from seedlings to mature plants, White said. Between 50 and 60 pounds of harvested marijuana were also recovered, as well as an estimated $100,000 worth of equipment used to grow the marijuana.

Welded Fixtures is a company that makes components for wire racks used in retail stores, White said. No suspects were in custody, and the investigation was ongoing into who was responsible for the marijuana grow.

Company representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Police found no signs of a burglary at the adjacent business where the original burglary alarm was triggered, he added. It was unclear what set off the alarm.

Friday’s bust was not the commercial neighborhoods first experience with marijuana.

The 8100 block of Byron Road was also home to Whittier’s lone legal medical marijuana dispensary from July 2010 until June of 2012, when it shut its doors after receiving threats of federal prosecution.

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Halloween raid in El Monte netted 1,000 marijuana plants, ecstasy, four arrests

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EL MONTE — Sheriff’s investigators Friday announced the arrest of four suspects and the seizure of more than 1,000 marijuana plants, ecstasy pills and “Mollies” on Halloween, when deputies went trick-or-treating armed with a search warrant at four El Monte homes.
The raids took place Oct. 31 at four homes located on the same lot in the 12400 block of Magnolia Street, just east of Durfee Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Christopher Nee said.
Sheriff’s narcotics detectives assigned to the sheriff’s Temple Station spearheaded the bust, which was originally intended to target only two homes, Sgt. Sherif Morsi said in a written statement.
1109_NWS_SGT-L-EMMARIJUANA2“During the service of the warrant, narcotics detectives were able to identify the two additional adjacent residences as also being involved in the marijuana cultivation operation,” Morse said. “All four residences are located on the same lot, which is within two city blocks of Mountain View High School.”
More than 1,000 pot plants and cultivation equipment, valued at about half a million dollars, were seized from the four homes, officials said.
The suspects were living in one of the homes, and growing their illicit crop in the other three, Nee said.
Investigators also found a “sizeable quantity” of both ecstasy pills and “Mollies” — a methamphetamine derivative, Morsi said.
Four suspects, described as Asian men and suspected gang members, were arrested during the bust, the sergeant said.
Their names were not released Friday as the investigation continued, Nee said.
“It is estimated that this size of an operation could produce over $6 million worth of marijuana per year,” Morsi said.
Additionally, the suspects are accused of stealing the electricity used for the grow operation from Southern California Edison, valued at about $200,000 during the 2013 calendar year.
Detectives declined to discuss further details of the case, and was unclear whether it was related to any other marijuana growing operations discovered by law enforcement officials in the San Gabriel Valley.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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150 marijuana plants found in Rowland Heights home

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — A deputy stopped a possible burglary suspect near a house then discovered 150 marijuana plants growing in the residence Friday.
Sgt. Christina Baker of the sheriff’s Walnut/Diamond Bar station said a deputy saw a man acting suspicious around a house in the 1500 block of Greencastle Avenue just before 4 p.m.
The deputy thought the man was a burglary suspect and detained him, she said. The man tried to distance himself from the residence which turned out to be a marijuana grow house, according to Baker.
Raul Villa, 23, was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana. He was being held at the Walnut/Diamond Bar station jail on $50,000 bail.
Villa will be arraigned Tuesday at West Covina Superior Court.

– Ruby Gonazales

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