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Manteca rental is pot factory
Part of $11M countywide marijuana raid
Light ballasts supporting dozens of high intensity grow lights above dozens of marijuana plants located in an upstairs area of a Pestana Avenue home was the focus of the Manteca Police Department SWAT team Wednesday. - photo by GLENN KAHL/ The Bulletin
A Manteca single family residence doubling as a marijuana nursery – a pot factory if you will – was raided by members of the Manteca Police Department’s SWAT team in the predawn hours on Wednesday.

It was the culmination of an investigation into a marijuana growing ring based in San Joaquin County that saw federal search warrants also issued for other locations in Tracy, Stockton and Nipomo, CA.

The 6 a.m. raid found no one home in the 500 block of Pestana Avenue just two blocks away from Joshua Cowell School where officers were hampered by doors that had been barricaded with up to three 2x4 braces mounted on each outside door.  Officers said they found the electrical service that supplied the grow lights actually bypassing the PG&E metered circuit breakers.  The bypass showed bundles of hot electrical wires that had to be clamped together with wires that led to the many portable lights and their reflectors.

A minimal amount of electricity flowed into the house servicing several domestic lighting fixtures making the utility company think someone was actually occupying the residence, police noted.

While no one was living in the house, outside Halloween lights were set to a timer to go on in the evening so that it would appear someone was at home in the residence, police said.

Air exhaust systems drawing the telltale marijuana odors through charcoal filters and into the attic of the Manteca home could not be seen from outside the residence.  Windows were covered with plastic sheeting to prevent the two dozen light being seen from outside as they burned 17 hours each day.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)  special agent Anthony D. Williams said agents dismantled five indoor marijuana grow sites and seized some 2,000 plants, 50 pounds of processed marijuana, three handguns, one shotgun, four vehicles – a Lexus, a Hummer and two BMSs – two boats and nearly $1.5 million in cash.

The street value of the marijuana is valued at approximately $11 million, he added.

In addition to the DEA, the investigation was conducted through the efforts of the San Joaquin Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force and the San Leandro Police Department.

Williams said that according to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, agents believe that the organization was being led by Lonnie Terrell, 26, of Tracy, who was believed to be the financier and main profiteer of the group.

“It appears that some members of this marijuana trafficking organization acquired a large amount of personal wealth, as evidenced by the assets seized in the investigation,” Williams said.

Multiple federal search warrants were served Wednesday morning resulting in shutting down the five marijuana grows.  One was located within 1,000 feet of Tracy High School.  At the Nipomo location officers found some $400,000 buried on the property.  Large amounts of currency were also seized at Tracy residences used as marijuana grows.

In addition to Lonnie Terrell, others arrested in the case are Anthony Montano, 28, Nicholas Roman, 26, Ruth Jimenez, 23, Jeremy Terrell, 21, all of Tracy and Alex Lindberg, 23, of Stockton.  It was also noted that all the locations were rentals and did not involve the property owners.

A DEA spokesman said that if the suspects are convicted of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and for manufacturing marijuana they face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years with a maximum of life in prison and a fine up to $4 million.  They are also expected to be charged with pirating the electricity they used for the five growing operations.