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$32M pot bust: Plants found near county jail

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$32M pot bust: Plants found near county jail

A law enforcement truck hauls out more than $32 million worth of unharvested marijuana from a growing operation near the San Joaquin County Jail. The San Joaquin County Metro Narcotics Task Force –...

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POSTED July 24, 2013 2:35 a.m.

FRENCH CAMP – A multi-agency law enforcement effort Tuesday morning led to the discovery of more than $32 million worth of unharvested marijuana.

And it was all a stone’s throw from the county jail. 

The San Joaquin County Metro Narcotics Task Force – working in conjunction with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office and Homeland Security Investigations – discovered more than 16,000 marijuana plants growing amidst a corn field in the 9400 block of Endow Road in French Camp.

Captain Chris Pehl, who heads the task force, called the growing operations “substantial and sophisticated” and noted that it was hidden well among the legal crop that it was grown with.

Two Stockton men and a female from Fresno were arrested and booked on charges of cultivation of marijuana. 

Duangchai Pradahseng, 50, of Fresno, Tim Sang Chanthala, 45, of Stockton, and Nom Chanthala, 47, were all arrested Tuesday.

In a statement released by the task force, the special agent in charge of San Francisco’s Homeland Security Investigation’s division had strong words for the bold nature of the accused crime and the growing trend that continues to become more audacious.

“As this discovery underscores, the individuals and organizations involved in the illegal cultivation of marijuana are becoming increasingly brazen, operating practically on law enforcement’s doorstep,” assistant special agent Ray Greenlee said. “This case shows yet again why federal and local collaboration is crucial to combating what amounts to be a significant public safety threat and ensuring that those involved are brought to justice.”

It’s the second high-dollar pot bust the task force has made this year.

Back in March, a raid on a home in rural Manteca led to the discovery of 3,000 pot plants inside with a value of just over $1,000,000. Officers arrested three people – including a 16-year-old girl – for charges that included cultivation of marijuana and theft of a utility. They also found a pair of guns inside of the home.

Last year, Manteca Police officers busted multiple homes that were converted to specifically grow marijuana – some with elaborate lighting fixtures, irrigation systems and electrical retrofits that allowed them to bypass PG&E meters.

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