L.A. NOW

Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

$4.5 million in marijuana found in two L.A. sheriff's busts

May 16, 2011 |  8:04 am

Photo: A marijuana growing operation in the unincorporated community of Bassett, near the City of Industry: Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's DepartmentLos Angeles County sheriff's officials have discovered more than $4.5 million in marijuana in busts at two locations in the San Gabriel Valley.

The two busts were not related, but they yielded a large amount of marijuana, officials said.

For all of last year, the sheriff's Asian Gang Team seized nearly $5 million worth of marijuana at five locations in the western San Gabriel Valley area.

In one of the busts last week, deputies found about 1,900 marijuana plants, valued at about $2 million, in a sophisticated growing operation in the unincorporated community of Bassett. Deputies found rows of  marijuana plants growing under bright lights in the 100 block of 8th Avenue, near Valley Boulevard.

Lt. Victor Sotelo of the L.A. Sheriff's Department said the investigation began after a deputy smelled "a very strong odor" of marijuana from a warehouse. After identifying its address, investigators found through a utility company that "there was a large electricity usage from several of the small warehouses from that building."

A judge approved a warrant for deputies to search the warehouses, and deputies seized the plants Thursday morning. "It was good old-fashioned police work," Sotelo said Saturday.

He said deputies were seeing more pot-growing activity in warehouses, where growers don't have to jeopardize their own homes over criminal activities.

This operation had no connection to a separate illegal marijuana cultivation operation found in the western San Gabriel Valley this week. A marijuana cache worth about $2.5 million was found at a rented condominium in the 9100 block of Huntington Drive near Rosemead Avenue in an unincorporated neighborhood just west of Arcadia, and in a commercial building in the 800 block of Date Avenue in Alhambra, near Mission Road.

Joseph Hsu, 30, a convicted felon and suspected member of the Chinese street gang known as Wah Ching, was arrested Thursday, along with Pauline McDonnell, 22, of Redlands, at Hsu's rented condominium.

Wah Ching is a major Asian gang known for narcotics and weapons trafficking, along with extortion and other crimes. Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Kim said investigators believe the suspect was growing the pot to benefit the gang.

ALSO:

2 arrested on suspicion of illegal marijuana growing operation in Alhambra and San Gabriel

Former Playboy playmate, whose body was found mummified, died of heart failure

California issues few alcohol citations at Dodger Stadium, despite complaints of problems

Man arrested in L.A. is allegedly part of group accused of aiding Taliban in Pakistan

-- Rong-Gong Lin II and Teresa Watanabe

Photo: A marijuana-growing operation in the unincorporated community of Bassett, near the City of Industry. Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department