160 Pounds Of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Seized In Corning Drug Bust
After making the biggest drug bust of its kind in county history Tuesday, Tehama Inter-agency Drug Enforcement agents displayed on Wednesday most of the 160 pounds of processed hallucinogenic mushrooms they seized from a Corning home.
"This would make a pretty nice-sized salad," TIDE Commander Vic Lacey said.
But all kidding aside, he said, the mushrooms seized are illegal and dangerous. They would have been worth at least $518,000 on the streets - enough to sell 1/8-ounce quantities at $25 to 20,754 customers.
Lacey said he hasn't heard of a bigger mushroom bust in the north state in at least 20 years.
"We had no idea this operation was going on anywhere around here," he said.
Agents discovered the drugs while investigating the death of Allen Joseph Milanowski, 52, whose body was discovered Monday morning on the side of Loleta Avenue between Marguerite and Oren avenues.
Milanowski's truck was later found parked in front of 4020 Oren Ave., and detectives approached a man who was living in the home.
"Things went downhill for him from there," Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker said.
After seeing marijuana in the home, a search warrant was requested and granted.
From the door, Detective Richard Knox said he could see a mushroom the size of a forearm sitting on a scale. It weighed 360 grams.
Detectives went on to find a "very large and sophisticated illegal psilocybin mushroom growing and distribution operation," according to a press release. In addition to 160 pounds of processed mushrooms, agents seized four growing marijuana plants and 10 pounds of processed marijuana with a street value exceeding $30,000. They also found $5,000 in cash, several digital electronic scales, laboratory glassware, lots of FedEx packaging and shipping materials and boxes of drugs sealed and ready to be shipped.
About 110 pounds of the mushrooms were in 340 vacuum-sealed bags. The other 50 pounds were on drying racks in a heated and ventilated room. Hundreds of spores were in petri dishes that Lacey said would grow to be about 6-inch long mushrooms in just seven to 10 days.
A man who referred to himself as Fred William Thalgott and lived in the home was taken into custody, Lacey said. After fingerprinting and interviewing the man, law enforcement found out his real name is Robert Crane Rawhouser. The 57-year-old man's fake name was found on receipts and other drug-related items in the home, he said.
Rawhouser is charged with possession for sales of hallucinogenic mushrooms, possession for sales of marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, maintaining a residence where illegal drugs are distributed or used and providing false information to a peace officer. He is being held without bail in the Tehama County Jail.
As it turned out, Rawhouser is a federal fugitive. Parker said a warrant was also issued for Rawhouser in 1993 from the U.S. District Court in eastern Wisconsin. His charge was failing to appear on a hallucinogenic mushroom charge.
"So we know he's been in this business for at least 15 years," Lacey said.
Because of Rawhouser's history and other details about the operation, Lacey said a federal court might take over the case.
The man knew what he was doing and did not have any local contacts who could leak his secret lab, Parker said.
"My guess is without this body, this could have gone on for years without us even knowing about it the way he was doing it," Parker said.
Lacey said the case is being investigated, and he is still not sure of the relationship between Rawhouser and Milanowski, the man who died.
Why Milanowski died is still unclear, Parker said. An autopsy Wednesday morning revealed that there was no foul play. The sheriff said the man's medication and hypothermia might have played a role. A toxicology screen to test for drugs will take a few weeks to process.
Knox said the man had prior marijuana cultivation convictions. Rawhouser had been friends with Milanowski for about four years and they had stayed together.
On Rawhouser's booking sheet, his occupation is listed as self-employed gardener.
"He knew a lot about horticulture apparently," Lacey said.
Detectives found tomato and cucumber seeds in the man's garden along with some planted vegetables, but the abundance of growing mushrooms was much greater than growing veggies.
"He clearly is not a vegetable gardener as a trade," Lacey said. "It's just a front for what he's doing here."
Psilocybin mushrooms have not been a major problem in Tehama County, Lacey said. But with an operation this large, others were likely involved.
Mushrooms could be hard to find because they do not have a strong odor, but someone close to mushrooms might notice a "pungent and moldy-type fungus smell," Lacey said.
People who hear venting or generators all night or see lights on in a garage all night should call TIDE at 824-8430. "We need those tips," he said. "And we want them."
Lacey said mushrooms are dangerous because they possess a variety of chemicals and other compounds. They do not look intimidating, but they react differently in each person. After only 20 to 30 milligrams of mushrooms, people hallucinate.
"They see sound and hear colors," he said.
Illegal mushrooms are chewed, eaten or mixed with liquid and consumed. They affect heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature and can cause death, Lacey said. The drugs seized will be marked for evidence and incinerated when the case is finished.
"I'm glad to get it out of the hands of the people that would be using it."