Fresno County's biggest pot bust of 2013

July 16, 2013 6:30:48 PM PDT
Fresno County's biggest pot bust of the year came Tuesday at a hidden farm that also revealed a new trend in large marijuana grows.

Sheriff's deputies found the 66-acre farm near Zediker and Belmont in the Sanger area. From the street, the field looks like just about any other. But air patrols uncovered thousands of pot plants using other crops as cover.

One look from Eagle-One is enough to see through the disguise of this Fresno County pot farm. Hiding there among the tomatoes, eggplants, and corn stalks are thousands of marijuana plants about a month away from harvest.

Sheriff Margaret Mims says it's an old trick that's back at the forefront. "I think they are going back to trying to hide the marijuana in legitimate crops even though they might have recommendations where they might feel they have cover," she said. "The message is: It's still illegal federally."

DEA agents joined sheriff's deputies in serving a warrant at the field Tuesday after several weeks of surveillance. They detained 21 field workers, but let most of them go after questioning them for a few hours.

Sheriff Mims says many of the workers came from other states to help with this summer's marijuana harvest. "When we get people coming from out of state to Fresno County to grow, that's unacceptable," she said.

Deputies painstakingly pulled all the plants, filling a trailer several times. This is the biggest pot field they've busted this year, but Sheriff Mims says she knows of bigger grows, and it's just a matter of time before those are busted -- even though the eradication rate can never be 100%.

"We're sure that we're not finding all of them," Mims said. "And we're not going to be able to get all of them. However, we're going to get to some."

Removing the plants was really a labor intensive job, especially in the hot sun. In fact, one of the deputies who were working the operation had to be treated for heat stroke, but he's okay.


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