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Police Nab Internet Fraud Suspect

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Police in the Central Valley say a fraud investigation in the small town of Escalon led them to a different kind of crime — a marijuana garden growing in an apartment bedroom.

Officers were investigating phony digital camera sales on the Internet.

But when they entered the apartment on Thursday they were immediately struck by the heat emanating from lamps used to grow the marijuana, according to Modesto officer Rick Applegate.

The resident of the apartment — 28-year-old Wayne Christopher Mitchell — arrived home shortly after the police left but was detained by neighbors until officers returned. Mitchell was then arrested and booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on suspicion of drug charges, theft and fraud — although he bailed out yesterday.

Police say the raid also turned up evidence of the Internet fraud — including information suggesting that Mitchell victimized more than two dozen people from Maine to Sacramento. Police say Mitchell used Internet auctions to offer digital cameras that he didn´t have — and then had the victims mail him money orders and checks at a Modesto post office.