BUTTE CO. MARIJUANA BUSTS

SLUG: Marijuana Busts, Helltown
Rptr: Steiner
Date:  10/17/2011

A pair of huge busts in Butte County last week netted over 2 tons of processed marijuana.

On Wednesday night, Butte County Sheriff’s deputies found nearly a ton of processed marijuana during a traffic stop on the Skyway in Paradise.

Deputies pulled over a vehicle towing an enclosed trailer that reeked of marijuana Wednesday around 8 p.m. Butte County Sheriff’s Office Special Enforcement Unit were called to the scene and questioned the driver, 21-year-old Nadeem Khan of Foster City about the smell coming from his trailer.

Inside the trailer they found 189 boxes crammed floor to ceiling with 1,966 pounds of marijuana with a street value of 3.1 million dollars.

Officials discovered that Khan had purchased the trailer with cash that day and was transporting marijuana from a grow site in Helltown to a home in Paradise. The marijuana was being grown for a store that sells marijuana over the counter, in violation of California Proposition 215 and California law. Khan was arrested for transportation of marijuana, a felony.
On Friday, the same special enforcement unit was assisted by a number of other agencies in serving search warrants on Helltown Road in Butte Creek Canyon as part of an on-going investigation.

The group, consisting of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office Special Enforcement Unit and Inter-Agency Narcotics Taskforce, Plumas and Yuba County Sheriff’s Office, and agents from Fish and Game, Immigration, Butte County Probation and the DEA contacted several people on the property who were working as marijuana trimmers.

One of the individuals, 53-year-old Gerardo Lopez Espinoza of Solidad, California, was interviewed and arrested for possession of cocaine and armed in the commission of a felony. He was booked into the Butte County Jail. The other workers were released at the scene.

During a subsequent investigation of the property, officials discovered a vast marijuana grow operation that consisted of ten different growing sites over four parcels and two large drying and processing areas that were being operated by a marijuana storefront in the Bay Area.

Those responsible for the grow sites tried to hide the illegitimacy of the operation by posting Proposition 215 marijuana recommendations at each grow site. Deputies were able to show that the marijuana gardens were not as they appeared but actually a commercial operation hiding under the disguise of Proposition 215 for the purpose of sales.

Deputies also discovered a number of Home Depot boxes identical to the ones found during Wednesday’s traffic stop in Paradise. In all, deputies found and eradicated 451 marijuana plants on the property and confiscated 2,120 pounds of dried processed marijuana.

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