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Deputies score $1M pot bust east of Manteca

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POSTED March 22, 2013 1:41 a.m.

An early-morning search warrant served by the San Joaquin County Metro Narcotics Task Force produced an astonishing find in a rural area about midway between Manteca, Escalon and Oakdale.

Shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday, officers from the multi-jurisdictional unit raided a home on the 31000 block of Lone Tree Road and discovered more than 3,000 marijuana plants in various stages of growth inside . The plants have an estimated street value of more than $1 million.

According to San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Department Public Information Officer Les Garcia, two adults – Florencio Madriz, 48, and Anna Lopez, 35 – were arrested and charged with felony cultivation of marijuana, felony possession of marijuana, theft of a utility and conspiracy. They were booked into San Joaquin County jail and the case has been forwarded on to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office. Two guns – a semi-automatic handgun and a shotgun – were also found at the scene.

A 16-year-old female was also arrested for assault on a police officer and conspiracy, and is being held at the San Joaquin County juvenile detention facility.

Garcia said that it appeared that the three were living in the house where the grow was discovered. It wasn’t clear whether the operation was based solely out of the home or whether the plants would be transferred to another location at a later date.

Cultivators often use elaborate indoor growing setups to avoid detection – rigging high-watt lights to trick the plants into thinking they’re actually outdoors in the heart of the grow season. To cut down on expenses and eliminate the possibility of sending up a red flag with an exorbitant power spike, a risky attempt to circumvent PG&E’s electrical hookup is sometimes utilized. The move, which is almost never done by a trained electrician, has been known to cause fires.

“Some of these operations can be extremely elaborate,” Garcia said. “You’ll find lighting fixtures and irrigation – they think of just about everything they can.

“Sometimes they just use the residence to start the growth of the plants before transferring them outdoors, and other times the entire operation is out of the residence. It’s a significant discovery for us.”

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