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RIVERSIDE, Calif. --
Thousands of marijuana plants -- which could have generated millions of dollars a year in illegal profits -- were seized Tuesday during raids on three homes in Riverside County, authorities said.
Marijuana-growing facilities were shut down in Eastvale, Hemet and Riverside, in an operation targeting a total of eight homes in three Southern California counties. Four people were arrested, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Drug traffickers are using sophisticated equipment and measures to transform their seemingly quiet suburban homes into illicit marijuana grow operations," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum. "These lucrative illegal operations can function with little scrutiny, which makes them attractive to the criminal element, but put our communities in harm's way."
Tuesday morning's sweep involved DEA agents, Riverside County sheriff's deputies, Riverside police, San Bernardino County sheriff's personnel, IRS and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents, according to DEA agent Sarah Pullen.
She said search warrants were executed at the following Riverside County locations:

  • 7422 Cobble Creek Drive, Eastvale
  • 1743 Cross Gateway St., Hemet
  • 14015 Seven Hills Drive, Riverside
A search warrant was executed at one home in San Bernardino County and four homes in Los Angeles County, according to Pullen.
She said five indoor marijuana cultivation facilities were identified -- three of which were in the Riverside County locations -- containing 5,600 plants, which could have yielded $60 million a year worth of marijuana sales.
The Eastvale residence contained 1,200 marijuana plants, with an estimated value of $3.5 million, according Riverside County sheriff's Investigator Jerry Franchville.
He said the 3,500-square-foot home, which lies at the edge of Providence Park in the unincorporated community, was rigged with assorted electrical devices to saturate the home with indoor light.
"There's all kinds of wiring in this house," Franchville said. "There's extra circuit breakers, grow lights that assimilate the sun, timers. It's pretty intricate."
He said the marijuana growers reconfigured the home's electrical system to bypass the local utility meter, stealing roughly $4,000 a month in wattage.
"The way law enforcement usually identifies these places is through the inordinately high electricity usage," Franchville said.
According to Pullen, in most of the growing facilities, carpets were torn out and holes were cut through floors, ceilings and doors to accommodate wiring. Closets and bathrooms served as storage areas for light ballasts, chemical supplies and fertilizer, she said. Windows and sliding glass doors were covered with drywall.
"These sophisticated growing operations pose an extreme hazard to our neighborhoods with their dangerous electrical wiring and changes made to the house infrastructure," said U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien. "In addition, any large narcotics operation invites violence, which further endangers families in these suburban communities."
Most of the converted homes were purchased in newer housing developments for between $500,000 and $800,000, according to Pullen.
Suspects arrested in connection with the marijuana cultivation were identified as: Sang Vong Din, 47, of Temple City; Sehn Nguyen, 41, of Los Angeles; Quan Vi To, 51, of El Monte; and Jennifer Zhang, 44, of Temple City.
They're charged with conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants and are expected to make initial appearances today in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, said Pullen.
She said conviction on the conspiracy charge carries a minimum 10-year sentence in federal prison.
According to Pullen, Tuesday's arrests and seizures stemmed from a yearlong investigation that, to date, has led to the dismantling of 33 marijuana grow operations and the seizure of more than 19,000 plants.

Story From: knbc.com
 
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