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606 pot plants seized

McMansion served as grow house near Woodward Park

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POSTED May 15, 2014 1:50 a.m.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons on Belmont Place you can hear the yells from soccer players that descend on nearby Woodward Park.

And a lengthy investigation by the Manteca Police Street Crimes Unit that concluded Wednesday with a search warrant determined that it’s also a place to grow marijuana. 

Shortly after 8 a.m. detectives arrested three Bay Area residents – 55-year-old Yi Zheng of Daly City, 44-year-old Da Chen of Daly City and 34-year-old Yiu Kong of San Francisco – and discovered more than 600 marijuana plants in various stages of growth in a 4,000 square-foot house that had been converted specifically for that purpose.

Marijuana cultivation aside, the house had its own issues. 

The growers were stealing electricity from PG&E by rigging wires to bypass the meter – a practice that can become a major fire hazard. The extensive modifications to the interior of the house prompted detectives to call in code enforcement officers who determined that the house was uninhabitable. 

Crews from PG&E were also called out to kill the electrical service to the house because of the hazard that the rewiring posed. 

In addition to the 606 plants that were discovered, investigators also found several pounds of processed marijuana and more than $2,200 in cash – additional evidence that sales were taking place on-site as well. 

All three suspects were booked into the San Joaquin County Jail on charges of cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale – health and safety code violations that are both felonies – as well as theft of a utility of more than $950 and criminal conspiracy. The theft and conspiracy charges are also felonies.

Both Kong and Chen, who were assigned an initial bail amount of $220,000, were released as of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. It isn’t clear whether they made bail or were released on their own recognizance. As of press time, Zheng was still being held. All three are scheduled to appear in the Manteca branch of the San Joaquin Superior Court on Friday, May 16, at 1:25 p.m. The proceedings are set to take place in Department 1. 

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