Amador's narcotics task force landed another blow to Mexican drug cartels attempting to use the Gold Country for monetary gain - raiding and destroying a remote marijuana nursery that belongs to a collective linchpin financing the cartels' end of the violent, intercontinental drug war.
On June 11, agents from the Amador County Combined Narcotics Enforcement Team moved into a dense, privately-owned forest covered in thickets and brush. The agents were backed by SWAT officers from the Amador County Sheriff's Office and air support from the Department of Justice.
Stealthily taking positions, the agents surrounded a camp and then entered it. The growers who had been maintaining the cultivation were gone, though their rugged kitchen and sleeping bags suggest that they had been living in the area for some time.
According to ACCNET Commander Jackie Long, 17,271 marijuana plants were destroyed during the operation. Evidence seized from the growers' camp site is now being examined in hopes of finding investigative leads as to their whereabouts, as well as the cartel's trafficking patters.
Long added in an official statement that Friday's bust was the largest marijuana cultivation seizure in Amador County at such an early date in the marijuana grow season.
On Aug. 6, 2009, ACCNET agents hit the biggest marijuana planting operation in Amador County's entire history, which was also owned by verified Mexican drug-trafficking syndicate.
A Ledger Dispatch reporter was the only media present as agents confronted four armed growers, who fled down into the isolated river canyon along the Mokelumne River. In the aftermath of the raid, ACCNET agents found weapons, chemical fertilizers and roughly a year's supply of food. They also took stock of the plantation's tragic impact on the Eldorado National Forest, which included clear-cutting and entire section of mountainside terraced-away and broken by makeshift watering systems.
Thousands of plastic nursery cups were discovered heaped throughout the natural vegetation, along with a small landfill that contained trash, fertilizer and other toxic chemicals.
Currently, more than 80 percent of marijuana plantations owned by Mexican drug cartels in California are found on public lands. Workers from the California Department of Fish and Game have confirmed that illegal "grows" have become an increasing threat to employees and outdoorsmen.
The June 11 ACCNET raid represents a rare glimpse of cartel growers expanding onto private property.
Experts believe that marijuana is the primary cash enterprise for Mexican drug cartels, who also move large amounts of heroine and cocaine and crack through the United States.
In the last 10 years in California, a number of near-fatal shootings, peace officer woundings and unsolved homicides have been linked to marijuana plantations owned by the cartels.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010