Lake County Sheriff's deputies this week busted a large pot growing and processing operation that spanned three residential buildings.
The investigation began, as Lake County News reports, with a report of suspected water theft on Henderson Drive in the Clearlake Oaks area. Members of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Roadmap Task force and the Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Unit went to the area on Tuesday and determined that three houses were implicated in the water theft — and they were allegedly being used for marijuana cultivation and processing for sale.
In a press release, the sheriff's office says that deputies returned later on Tuesday with a search warrant, and they found a 12-gauge shotgun, 2,326 marijuana plants, and about 7,600 pounds of processed marijuana.
"The marijuana is estimated to have an approximate value of seven million dollars," the sheriff's office says, adding that this is the single largest marijuana bust in Lake County history.
Photos released by the sheriff's office show trash bags presumably full of processed cannabis, we well as an interior room converted into a greenhouse full of plants.
Detectives arrested Salvador Diaz Maciel, 52, inside one of the residences, and he was later booked on charges of illegal cultivation and processing of marijuana.
"While licensed cannabis growers struggle to remain compliant with the regulations required of this industry, and further struggle to remain financially viable while dealing with the associated costs, such as fees, permits, and taxes, there continues to be a black market for this product," says Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin in a statement. "Operations such as this one pump large amounts of unregulated and untaxed cannabis into the market. They avoid the costs that legitimate growers have to encumber by stealing water, avoiding taxes, and not complying with any regulations. These operations adversely impact the legal industry, have negative impacts on the environment, and are frequently the cause of other criminal activity."
Sheriff Martin added, "We will continue our efforts against large-scale illegal operations such as this one."
Anyone with information related to this case is asked to call the sheriff's office at 707-262-4200.