$1 billion+ in marijuana seized in ‘historic’ LA County drug bust

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Police in Los Angeles County say they seized more than $1 billion in marijuana plants last month in what Sheriff Alex Villanueva described as a “historic” drug bust.

Over a 10-day period in June, 131 people were arrested; 65 vehicles were seized; about $28,000 was seized; more than 33,000 pounds of harvested marijuana were seized; 30 locations were demolished; 33 firearms were seized; and 180 animals were rescued.

The total estimated street value of the plants destroyed is $1.193 billion, Villanueva said.

Villanueva said the Marijuana Eradication Operation began June 8 in Antelope Valley and involved more than 400 personnel from local, state and federal agencies.

In 2020, narcotics detectives identified 150 illegal outdoor marijuana grow sites in Antelope Valley. In 2021, investigators conducted reconnaissance flights and identified more than 500 illegal cannabis grows.

Villanueva said violent crime has been linked directly to the grow sites. In July 2020, two murder victims were discovered adjacent to an illegal marijuana grow in Lancaster, while in March, a murder victim was found buried in the desert near Lake Los Angeles and the suspects wanted in connection with the murder operated an illegal marijuana grow in Lake Los Angeles.

“Threats by armed individuals against citizens living in close proximity to illegal marijuana grows have occurred on a regular basis and were increasing in frequency,” the department said in a news release.

Police said the grows also threaten wildlife and the environment.

“Most Californians would be shocked and disappointed at the amount of water these unlicensed, illegal grows are using, especially as California suffers from a drought,” said Curt Fallin, DEA associate special agent in charge. “By our calculation, the illegal grows in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties require an astounding 5.4 million gallons of water a day, every day.”

“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to all the cartels and anyone doing illegal operations in the high desert, ‘your days here are over and we’re coming for you,’” said Villanueva.