Deputies seize 1,200 marijuana plants during bust of phony pot co-ops outside of Boulder Creek
BOULDER CREEK - Sheriff's detectives busted six outdoor marijuana grows in the San Lorenzo Valley this week that claimed to be medical collectives but were not in compliance with state and county guidelines.
The pot gardens, all located in the Deer Creek Road area, contained close to 1,200 plants that were full of buds and nearing harvest. Sgt. Mark Yanez, who heads the Sheriff's Office narcotics enforcement unit, said the gardens would have produced 500-600 pounds of marijuana worth $1.5-$2.4 million.
"There's always been marijuana grows up in Deer Creek, but it seems to me it's gotten out of hand," Yanez said. "(It's) just a lot more marijuana than I've ever seen before up there."
Detectives, who discovered the grows by flying over the mountainous area in a helicopter this summer, spotted 10-20 additional gardens on Deer Creek Road and the side roads in that area. Yanez said they plan to raid those gardens later this month.
One garden investigated this week was left intact because the growers were in compliance with medical marijuana guidelines, though deputies did confiscate four guns from a home there and arrested two men on unrelated charges, according to the Sheriff's Office.
However, the rest of the grows allegedly were too large to qualify for medicinal use and the growers were using multiple patient recommendations to try to qualify as a cooperative, but when detectives contacted some of those patients listed, the people had no affiliation with the gardens, according to the Sheriff's Office.
"It appears to me, people who want to grow commercially, they get a bunch of recs from people" who had not been to the grow site, Yanez said. "Basically they're just scamming."
Beyond the allegations that the pot gardens were for commercial use, detectives said they were concerned that the large size of the grows might attract thieves, possibly armed, looking to steal the marijuana.
"It's just a bad situation," deputy Peter Hansen said. "With all of the marijuana being cultivated in this one area, there is a great risk of rip-offs and other problems."
Deputies confiscated about $6,000 cash, some marijuana that was already harvested and packaged to sell at one plot, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Although no one had been taken into custody for involvement in the alleged commercial operation by Thursday afternoon, Yanez said he anticipated at least three people would be arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana.
Two men were arrested during this week's raids on other charges.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Matthew Shreffer, 50, was arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine and Chris Daly, 53, was arrested on suspicion of possessing psilocybin mushrooms and drug use paraphernalia, and being under the influence of methamphetamine.
By Jennifer Squires - Sentinel staff writer
Posted:*09/10/2009 05:33:31 PM PDT
Updated:*09/10/2009 05:38:33 PM PDT