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Nearly $3.8 Million Seized In Five Tuolumne County Illegal Pot Grow Raids

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Tuolumne County, CA – Three people were arrested after five illegal marijuana grows were raided by state cannabis law enforcement last week in Columbia, Big Hill and Groveland.

The searches were carried out on Tuesday (9/19) and Wednesday (9/20) by the California Department of Cannabis Control Law Enforcement Division (CDCC).

“Five search warrants were served, which resulted in the seizure of 2,277 pounds of cannabis product worth an estimated retail value of $3,771,657. In addition, detectives seized 14 firearms, including 3 assault rifles, and $6,000 in cash,” reported CDCC spokesperson David Hafner.

These were ongoing investigations by the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce, an initiative of Governor Gavin Newsom that involves over 20 state agencies using their resources to crack down on and disrupt the illegal cannabis market. Leading the task force are the CDCC and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Hafner also told Clarke Broadcasting,
“We worked with local law enforcement, who provided us with information on possible illegal marijuana grows in the county.”

On Tuesday, raids were carried out at two locations in the 19200 block of 2nd Garrotte Ridge Road, near Merrell and Jackass Creek Access roads in the Groveland area. Between the two properties, they seized 3,546 pot plants, estimated at more than $2.91 million. One person was arrested, 50-year-old Hongying Lyu, for misdemeanor cultivating six plus marijuana plants and resisting arrest, after running from the property and being arrested nearby.

On Wednesday, two arrests were made after three raids. Around 7 a.m., a search was conducted on a property located on the 10400 block of North Airport Road near Parrotts Ferry Road in Columbia. There, 51 plants with an estimated value of over $212,000 were seized, along with seven guns, the aforementioned three assault rifles, and $6,000 in cash. The residents, 34-year-old Felicha Nicole Baxter and 32-year-old Eric Gonzales-Garcia, were arrested on several felonies, including having six or more marijuana plants, sales, manufacturing a short barrel rifle, manufacturing or selling a large cap-mag, and manufacturing or having an unconventional pistol. They also face misdemeanor charges of child abuse with the potential for great bodily injury or death and having a gun without a serial number.

Later that day, two nearby properties in the 22-23000 block of Big Hill Road near Mountain Boy and 5 Mile Creek roads were raided. While no arrests were made, the task force confiscated over 550 pot plants with an estimated worth of more than $430,000 and four guns. Both properties were “red-tagged” by county code compliance for environmental crimes, but no specifics were given.

Regarding any connections between the searches, Hafner stated, “There is no connection between the five properties that were raided.”

These state agencies are participating in the raids: CDCC, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Department of Motor Vehicles, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, CHP, California State Parks, and the Department of Tax and Fee Administration. Federal agencies included the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Also involved were Tuolumne County Code Enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office.

To report potential illegal cultivation to the CDCC online, click here. Hafner vows, “You can go there and report potential illegal cultivation efforts or unlicensed cannabis activity, and we always follow up on those tips.”