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Suspects walk into home as police seize marijuana plants

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An undercover officer stands in the doorway of one of five rooms filled with three to five-foot-high marijuana plants they said were about to be harvested.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED July 26, 2012 1:01 a.m.

An estimated $1.2 million pot grow was discovered Wednesday in a Manteca neighborhood south of the Highway 120 Bypass near Airport Way.

A surprise twist was to come later in the day for Manteca’s Street Crimes Unit officers after they served a search warrant at the suspected two-story home in the southwest portion of the city that they suspected of being retrofitted to grow marijuana.

The four detectives arrived at the home in the 1500 block of Blue Lupine Lane at about 1 p.m. – coincidentally at the same time that Andy Dinh, 35, of San Jose, walked out the front door to hand water a potted chili plant.  Dinh was arrested without resistance. Police believe he had the in-house nursery in operation since April with industrial level grow lights and a well functioning filtration system.

Dinh was charged with cultivation of some 350 three to five-foot-high pot plants that he allegedly had been growing in five separate rooms, for possession of marijuana for sale and for the theft of PG&E power that had been used to power the industrial grow lights hanging from the ceilings.

The plants were valued at $3,300 each. 

The surprise twist came some three hours later at about 3:30 in the afternoon when two other San Jose men pulled their late model Honda into the driveway and parked it next to one of the city dumpsters that was being filled with plants. 

Because none of the officers were in uniform and there was no black and white patrol vehicle parked in front of the residence, they were not alerted to the police investigation underway.

The passenger got out of the car and walked into the open garage and asked a non-sworn investigator for the friend they had come to see who had already been arrested. Sensing something was wrong, the visitor said they must have the wrong address and started to leave.  But, the investigator invited him into the home through the garage access door where he introduced him to one of the detectives.

Primary Street Crimes Unit investigator Ian Osborn placed Toan Dang, 28, of San Jose under arrest and immediately cuffed him.  Officers then went out to the car and ordered the driver, Truong Hai, 37, also of San Jose, out of the vehicle putting him in custody as well.

Both were taken to the city jail – in a black and white patrol car – for questioning on drug charges related to what officers had found in their vehicle.  Their car and two vehicles parked outside the home were impounded.

It was an unexpected plus in the case for the Manteca officers when the two men drove right into their crime scene investigation, literally with their eyes open.

Police discovered their sedan was carrying a large bag of marijuana buds, ecstasy pills and methamphetamine.  

Sergeant Chris Mraz said police were told of the home by a member of the Manteca Crime Stoppers.  He also noted that the loss of paid 220 volt utility power service to the residence through a meter bypass amounted to about $18,000 in what appeared to be actually the first crop inside the home.

A bucket of seeds was found in small individual cardboard cartons in the kitchen immersed in water in preparation for planting a second crop in the near future.

 One neighbor said she had suspected a grow was going on in the house, but that she should have known in hindsight, because the upstairs lights were on all night long every night.

It is the third home in Manteca that had been converted into a pot grow house that Manteca Police have busted in the past year.

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