The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office:
Over the past several weeks, the County of Mendocino Marijuana Enforcement Team (COMMET) conducted aerial overflights of Mendocino County focusing on unlawful marijuana/cannabis operations. During that time, numerous locations were identified where focused operations were planned. The following is a list of focused operations that recently took place with more expected to follow in the future.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office wants to be transparent with the populous of Mendocino County that if you are cultivating marijuana/cannabis unlawfully, that you are taking the risk of criminal action being taken against you as enforcement efforts are ongoing.
Despite potential criminal prosecution, Mendocino County is capable of issuing severe monetary fines to persons operating unlawful marijuana/cannabis operations, which can also result in liens being placed on properties.
During the week of August 9th – August 13th, the County of Mendocino Marijuana Enforcement Team (COMMET), the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force (MMCTF), Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau and the United States Customs Border Protection Agency served several search warrants in Mendocino County all related to identified unlawful marijuana/cannabis growing operations.
On August 9th, the listed agencies responded to the 500 block of Cropley Lane in Willits to serve a search warrant at a property regarding an unlawful marijuana/cannabis operation. On arrival, law enforcement encountered a large marijuana/cannabis processing operation which was contained within a large warehouse.
Law enforcement officials encountered and ultimately detained twenty-nine (29) individuals. Twenty seven (27) of the twenty-nine (29) individuals were determined to be from Southeast Asia and Laos.
At the time of the search warrant service law enforcement officials were uncertain if this particular marijuana/cannabis operation was engaging in human trafficking.
Due to a language barrier, a Deputy Sheriff from Butte County was transported by helicopter to the search warrant location for interpretation purposes. This interpretation process determined all detained persons on the property were at the location on their own free will and were employed laborers.
During the detainment of several of the individuals, large sums of U.S. Currency were found at the location. A total of $230,632.00 cash was seized pursuant to asset forfeiture laws and later turned over to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office.
A total of 9,447.9 pounds of processed/packaged bud marijuana/cannabis for the purposes of sales was located at the location. All marijuana/cannabis other than what was retained as evidence per 11479 HS was destroyed at the scene.
At the completion of this investigation, a criminal case will be filed with the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office for potential criminal prosecution.
The listed law enforcement personnel responded to the 7100 block of Highway 20 in Willits regarding an unlawful marijuana/cannabis operation. On arrival, an adult male fled the property on foot eluding capture.
A total of five (5) plastic style hoop houses containing 2,337 illegal marijuana/cannabis plants were were eradicated and destroyed on scene.
The aforementioned law enforcement personnel responded to the 4800 block of Highway 20 in Willits regarding an unlawful marijuana/cannabis operation. The marijuana/cannabis found at this location is commonly known as an “open field” operation.
On arrival, five (5) individuals fled the property on foot and into the brush. Law enforcement observed several plastic style hoop houses all containing marijuana/cannabis in excess of state law. This location/property did not have proper county or state permits to cultivate cannabis. This location was found to have 5,871 illegal marijuana/cannabis plants.
As this investigation was afoot, law enforcement was able to link the neighboring property to this particular unlawful growing operation. The property was secured as a search warrant was obtained. After obtaining the search warrant for the neighboring property, it was found to contain several fabricated rooms to cultivate marijuana/cannabis unlawfully. A total of 1,376 pounds of processed marijuana/cannabis was found at this location.
All marijuana other than what was retained per state law (11479 HS), was destroyed on scene.
While on scene, law enforcement contacted Mendocino County Code Enforcement, finding all structures on this particular property were erected without obtaining proper permits through Mendocino County. A report will be forwarded to code enforcement for potential code enforcement investigation/enforcement.
Investigators also seized a .22 caliber rifle which had its serial number modified and painted over.
Further investigation into the person(s) responsible for this unlawful marijuana/cannabis growing operation is ongoing by COMMET at this time.
Case# 2021-20125 & Case# 2021-20277
Law enforcement personnel responded to the 49000 block of North Highway 101 in Laytonville (Black Oak Ranch) for an illegal trespassing marijuana/cannabis cultivation operation.
On arrival, no persons were located at the property although evidence at the scene suggested several people were trespassing and residing on the property.
This is a remote piece of property where the property owner requested the assistance from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office after locating a trespassing marijuana/cannabis operation on the property.
COMMET found several acres of private property had been removed (clear cut) and thirteen (13) plastic style hoop houses were constructed. Not all the hoop houses contained growing marijuana/cannabis as some had been recently harvested and were no longer at the location.
A total of 2,056 illegal marijuana/cannabis plants and 106.8 pounds of processed marijuana/cannabis were destroyed at the location.
While investigating this particular property, distinct roads/trails were observed leaving this same property which entered onto government lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management (Case# 2021-20277). A helicopter, which was being used by law enforcement located three (3) more plastic hoop houses just north on BLM property. Based on the roads and vehicle tracks, it was clear this operation was connected to the illegal trespassing marijuana/cannabis cultivation operation.
This BLM property contained 4,000 marijuana/cannabis plants, which were eradicated/destroyed on scene.
The aforementioned law enforcement personnel responded to the 20000 block of Hollands Lane in Willits where a search warrant was served regarding an unlawful marijuana/cannabis operation. On arrival, a female subject was observed actively “trimming” marijuana. The female subject attempted to flee the property and after a short foot pursuit, she was caught/detained.
Three (3) other persons were later contacted on the property during the search warrant service.
During this investigation, 913 illegal marijuana/cannabis plants were found at the location and ultimately eradicated and destroyed. In addition to the growing plants there were 1,756.8 pounds of hanging/drying marijuana/cannabis found at the location and also destroyed other than what was retained as evidence per state law.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank all law enforcement personnel who participated in the targeted operations to include the following:
County of Mendocino Marijuana Enforcement Team (COMMET)
Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau
Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force (MMCTF)
United States Customs and Border Protection