Large illegal marijuana operation found in Livingston

A large illegal marijuana operation was found in Livingston which deputies believe is tied to a much bigger crime operation.
April 4, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Merced County Sheriff's deputies have uncovered a large illegal marijuana operation in Livingston which they believe is tied to a much bigger crime operation.

Deputies got an anonymous tip about the marijuana grow. They're estimating that grow produced about $1.5 million worth of illegal drugs every year.

From the outside, a house located in a Livingston almond orchard doesn't look suspicious. But inside an attached shed there's a secret tunnel which leads into a basement, outfitted with a powerful ventilation system, complex lighting, and rows of marijuana plants. Deputies have now cut down the illegal indoor grow.

"It's my belief that this is clearly part of a larger operation based on the sophistication and the level of deception they went to keep it from the eyes of law enforcement and the public," said B.J. Jones with the Merced County Sheriff's Office.

Victor Barajas was arrested in connection with cultivating about 400 plants in the underground grow site. They say his decision to break the law could have hurt innocent people who live nearby.

"We have homicides , other counties have homicides that are directly related to people going in and doing the home-invasion robberies of the indoor grows, or people who have the proceeds or finished product," said Jones.

Deputies say the county is experiencing a huge problem with illegal grows. In the month of March alone, investigators chopped down about 4,500 plants. Deputies say the evidence they gathered at this latest bust could lead them to other criminals.

"This is one of probably many other houses that are potentially involved," said Jones.

Investigators say during this bust, they found bags of plant trimmings which they believe were going to be used to be turned into honey oil.

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