A multi-agency drug raid has resulted in six arrests in a sweeping action taken to reduce illegal marijuana cultivation and resulting environmental damage in California.
Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and several allied agencies made the arrests during a wide-ranging raid on Sept. 4. The suspects were taken into custody and will be charged with multiple violations, including cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana, maintaining a place for the sale of narcotics, felony conspiracy, grand theft of water, pollution of state waters, litter near state waters and unlawful water diversion.
Arrested were Pedro P. Tejeda of Galt, 50, Jose Luis Aguilar of Elk Grove, 54, Juan Garcia Baltazar Lopez of Sacramento, 26, Jorge Ornelas Garcia of Lodi, 47, Arnulfo Castillo Torres of Lodi, 53, and Antonio Avilez Carrillo of Delco, Idaho, 23.
CDFW and its partners had been gathering information on the suspects for months. They are suspected of having supplied a number of marijuana grows previously raided by CDFW wildlife officers.
“Diligent reconnaissance and investigative work by our officers laid the groundwork for a successful operation,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Brian Naslund. “Our department will continue to strive to protect the natural resources of our state by aggressively pursuing marijuana cultivators who steal water during an unprecedented drought, damage the environment and imperil wildlife.”
Over the past several years, officers from various state and federal agencies have identified four large marijuana grow sites within San Joaquin, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties that have been linked to an unknown drug trafficking organization. Two sites were located at the White Slough Wildlife Area in San Joaquin County. Two others were located west of Interstate 5, between Twin Cities and Dierssen roads, in Sacramento County. A fifth site was located on Webb Tract Island in Contra Costa County.
Wildlife officers – with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the California Highway Patrol, the El Dorado Sheriff’s Department, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department and the Elk Grove Police Department – made the arrests at residences and businesses in various locations in Sacramento, Lodi, Galt and Elk Grove. Officers also confiscated five vehicles, a boat/trailer, and recovered one stolen firearm.
CDFW is heavily involved in operations to rid California of illegal marijuana grows, which are becoming an increasing problem in the state as the historic drought wears on.
Marijuana growers steal substantial amounts of water, exacerbating severe drought conditions. Marijuana plants use six to eight gallons of water per plant, per day, and are a direct hazard to wildlife that eat the plants or drink from contaminated water stores. Wildlife is also frequently poached at the grow sites. Law enforcement officials are also concerned that people walking or hiking could be in danger if they accidentally come across a marijuana cultivation site, as illicit growers usually carry weapons.
CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, please call 1-888-334-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For a brief video shot by wildlife officers on the day of the takedown, see file folder: Sep4MarijuanaOp at ftp://ftp.dfg.ca.gov/oceo/.