Second marijuana growing operation discovered in the San Gabriel Valley

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Jun 21, 2007
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A second large marijuana growing operation was discovered in the San Gabriel Valley this week, this time in three warehouses near the City of Industry.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies found about 1,900 marijuana plants, valued at about $2 million, in a sophisticated pot-growing operation in the unincorporated community of Bassett. Deputies found rows of marijuana plants growing underneath bright lights on the 100 block of 8th Avenue, near Valley Boulevard.

Lt. Victor Sotelo of the Sheriff's Department's Industry station 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 are seeing more pot-growing activity in warehouses, where growers don't have to jeopardize their own homes over criminal activities.

Four men were arrested at the warehouses: Colby Kelly, 39, of Santa Ana; Alfred Serrato, 39, of Tustin; Brandon Roberto, 27, of Aliso Viejo; and Theodoro Castro, 35, of Rowland Heights.

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.

Marijuana operations are pretty common in the San Gabriel Valley, said Kim, of the sheriff's Asian Gang Team. Last year, his team seized nearly $5 million worth of marijuana at five locations in the western San Gabriel Valley area.


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