San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Marijuana Enforcement Teams and deputies from across the county have once again been busy sweeping the county of illegal marijuana cultivations in week three of “Operation Hammer Strike.”
This week, between September 11, 2021, and September 18, 2021, warrants were served at thirty-one locations across the desert regions of the county and have now extended down the hill with locations in Chino Hills, Fontana, and Bloomington. As far as other locations in the desert, it seems to be the usual suspects, Lucerne Valley, Twentynine Palms, Wonder Valley, Pinon Hills, Phelan, Newberry Springs, and Hesperia. According to the Sheriff officials, the search warrant locations primarily come from complaints filed by residents who live in the communities where marijuana cultivations are rampant.
Thirty-one suspects were arrested, including fifteen from the Phelan and Pinon Hills locations. Many of the suspects lived in the community where they were arrested; however, thirteen were residents of other areas, including Pomona, Monterrey Park, Menifee, Riverside, San Bernardino, Perris, Hemet, Sunland, Glendale, Laos, Stockton, and Mexico. No suspects were reported arrested at fourteen of the 31 locations; however, it is unknown if there were any suspects at those locations when the warrants were served. The illegal grows are run by cartels from Mexico and China, according to sheriff’s investigators. Many arrested are victims of human trafficking, often living in deplorable conditions.
Sheriff’s seized nearly 30,000 marijuana plants and almost 5,800 pounds of processed marijuana from a total of 138 greenhouses which averages out to nearly 220 plants per greenhouse. A marijuana plant grown in a greenhouse can yield about a 1/2 pound of processed marijuana, if not more. The 30,000 plants seized could have yielded 15,000 pounds of processed marijuana, at a value of $15 million, about $1000 per pound in seized plants alone. The 5,800 pounds of processed marijuana that were also seized has a value of almost $6 million, bringing the overall value of this week’s eradication efforts to nearly $21 million. However, the cost per pound can rise to almost triple that amount depending on where the product is being delivered, on the east coast, for example. Additionally, the sheriff’s seized four handguns and $19,000 in cash.
In many cases, the water needed to grow these plants is stolen from local water districts, many of which have limited water resources. The water required to grow the 30,000 plants would be about 14.5 million gallons of water, or 480 gallons per plant. That equates to almost 20,000 units of water. The average household, according to the EPA, uses 150 units per year or about 113,000 gallons.
“There are 1,205 known illegal marijuana cultivations, and my best estimate is probably at least another 1,000 that we are not aware of yet,” said Sergeant Rich Debevec, from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Gangs/Narcotics Division, Marijuana Enforcement Team in an interview with Fox11 News. Residents reporting grows is an essential tool in ridding the county of illegal grows. Greenhouse sites can be small, with only a few on a property, or they can take up large plots of land with 50 to 100 greenhouses. They can also be single-family dwellings that get converted into grow houses. It is these smaller operations that are harder for authorities to locate and identify. This is where local residents can help in the effort to eradicate these illegal grows by filing a complaint about any suspected grow locations. There are several options for reporting suspected grows listed at the end of this article. It is important not to engage anybody at any suspected site; it is safest to report suspected locations to the authorities and let them determine if they are illegal or not.
It was determined that the cannabis cultivations at these locations did not comply with California’s Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) and San Bernardino County’s ordinance prohibiting Commercial Cannabis Activity. San Bernardino County has a law prohibiting Commercial Cannabis Activity, which includes growing marijuana plants outdoors.
The Sheriff’s Gangs/Narcotics Division will continue to enforce California’s cannabis laws and San Bernardino County’s cannabis cultivation and distribution ordinance. Persons found guilty of violating the state law and county ordinance are subject to fines, prosecution, and seizure of property.
Property owners who are growing marijuana or are aware their tenants are growing marijuana on their properties violate the state law and local ordinances; they may also be subject to civil or criminal sanctions. Property owners are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement or code compliance agency to confirm if cultivating cannabis is prohibited or allowed under specific regulations.
To report possible illegal marijuana grows or activities, call the CalCannabis tip line at 1-833-933-3847 (1-833-WEED-TIP) and the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-782-7463 (1-800-78-CRIME) or leave information at www.wetip.com.
Additionally, call the Sheriff’s Gangs/Narcotics Division at 1-909-387-8400 or email NARC-MET@sbcsd.org and let the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors know by emailing the San Bernardino County Clerk of the Board at COB@sbcounty.gov. Residents can also speak to the supervisors during their board meetings. This can be done in person or virtually at one of the county’s several government centers. Visit sbcounty.gov/main/pages/BOS for more information.
Residents can also report suspected violations to Code Enforcement via their website at sbcountylus.force.com/lus/servicetypes.
Report any suspicious water activity to the Phelan Pinon Hills Community Services District at 760-868-1212 or Visit www.pphcsd.org for more information.
Here is a list of locations and suspects arrested:
- #1 – 9100 Block of Santa Fe Road, Lucerne Valley
- #2 – 36000 Block of Valinda, Lucerne Valley
- #3 – 9000 Block of Buena Vista, Lucerne Valley
- #4 – 10100 Block of Buena Vista, Lucerne Valley
- Rong Fa Jing, 63-year-old male resident of Pomona, Ca.
- Yang Liu, 49-year-old male resident of Monterrey Park, Ca.
- #5 – 16500 Block of Quail Country Avenue, Chino Hills
- #6 – Parcel with no address, Twentynine Palms
- Esteban Garcia, 40 year old male resident of Menifee, Ca.
- #7 – Parcel with no address, Twentynine Palms
- #8 – 70600 Block of Dunlap Avenue, Twentynine Palms
- #9 – Parcel with no address, Wonder Valley
- #10 – 76500 Block of Taco Drive, Wonder Valley
- #11 – 76900 Block of Diamond Bar, Wonder Valley
- Somsy Sythongkham, 68-year-old male resident of Wonder Valley, Ca.
- Kham Sythongkham, 61-year-old male resident of Wonder Valley, Ca.
- #12 – 3900 Block of Lytle Creek Road, Fontana
- Jose Bolano, 31-year-old male resident of Riverside, Ca.
- Aaron Camacho, 29 year old male resident of San Bernardino, Ca.
- #13 – 19100 Block of Ash Street, Bloomington
- Manuel Soto, 50-year-old male resident of Perris, Ca.
- Maria Artega, a 60-year-old female resident of Bloomington, Ca.
- Ivan Chavez, 46-year-old male resident of Perris, Ca.
- Brandon Sanchez, 23-year-old male resident of Hemet, Ca.
- #14 – Parcel with no address, Pinon Hills
- Yung Chin Teng, 47 year old male resdient of Pinon Hills, Ca.
- #15 – Parcel with no address, Pinon Hills
- Andres Contreras, 26-year-old male resident of Pinon Hills, Ca.
- #16 – 3600 Block of Elsinore Road, Phelan
- Haroutyun Sahakyan, 33 year old male resident of Sunland, Ca.
- Vache Bezikayan, 32-year-old male resident of Glendale, Ca.
- #17 – 5000 Block of Solano Road, Phelan
- #18 – 32900 Block of Harvard Road, Newberry Springs
- #19 – 3300 Block of Condor Road, Newberry Springs
- #20 – 41800 Silver Valley Road, Newberry Springs
- #21 – 41200 Block of Elk Horn Road, Newberry Springs
- Yan Ling Chen, a 62-year-old female resident of Newberry Springs, Ca.
- Yao Tang Liang, 61-year-old male resident of Newberry Springs, Ca.
- Qin Quan Chen, 38-year-old male resident of Newberry Springs, Ca.
- Dib Zeng, 62-year-old male resident of Newberry Springs, Ca.
- #22 – 45100 Block of Fairview Road, Newberry Springs
- Kham Phomthisene, 61-year-old male resident of Laos.
- #23 – 2400 Block of Dos Palmas Road, Phelan
- Bernabe Hernandez-Salgado, 53 year old male resident of Stockton, Ca.
- Victor Bugarin, 29-year-old male resident of Mexico.
- Daniel Andres, 29-year-old male resident of Stockton, Ca.
- #24 – Parcel with no address, Phelan
- Alfred Carrillo, 22-year-old male resident of Phelan, Ca.
- Ray Pachecho, 23-year-old male resident of Phelan, Ca.
- #25 – Parcel with no address, Phelan
- Timoteo Angula, 41-year-old male resident of Phelan, Ca.
- #26 – 11600 Block of Ponderosa Drive, Pinon Hills
- Leonel Castro Diaz, 58-year-old male resident of Pinon Hills, Ca.
- #27 – Parcel with no address, Pinon Hills
- Jose Gallegos, 45-year-old male resident of Phelan, Ca.
- #28 – Parcel with no address, Pinon Hills
- #29 – 1900 Block of Olivera, Pinon Hills
- Ofelia Lopez, 54 year old female resident of Phelan, Ca.
- Sammy Martinez, 19-year-old male resident of Phelan, Ca.
- #30 – 12300 Block of Nugget Road, Phelan
- Juan Jose Perea Gomez, 33-year-old male resident of Phelan, Ca.
- #31 – 8300 Block of First Avenue, Hesperia