Merced Zookeeper Arrested for Marijuana Sells

Merced, CA, USA The head zookeeper here says she was quote, "flabbergasted" by Alisha Costa's arrest. Narcotics agents say they did not find any drugs here at the zoo, but they do have reason to believe she may have been selling pot while on the job.

This is video of Assistant Zookeeper Alisha Costa last October working with a terminally ill young boy during his visit to the Applegate Park Zoo. This is the 24 year old one year later, in a mug shot following her arrest.

Agent Paul Llanez said, "She was booked for possession for sale of marijuana and cultivation of marijuana."

Agent Paul Llanez, whose face can't be shown because of undercover work, says the Merced Mutli Agency Task Force arrested Costa at the zoo Wednesday afternoon following a tip from the police department that claimed she was selling pot on the premises.

Agent Paul Llanez said, "With the idea of children frequenting the zoo, that's why we acted on it so quickly."

Agents did not find any marijuana at the city operated zoo, but Llanez says they did find several items at Costa's rural Winton home.

Agent Paul Llanez said, "At the house we found two growing plants that were being dried out and 8 and a half ounces of processed marijuana, some packaging material, some scales, and some documentation of the prices of what she was selling it for."

Costa had worked at the zoo for nearly four years. The president of the Merced Zoological Society did not want to comment on Costa herself, but says she's just hoping the allegations won't take away from the zoo's reputation as a family friendly facility.

Merced Zoological Society Pres. Marlene Murphy said, "School groups come in and visit us, we have visitors from up north and down south that tell us how wonderful how it is."

Costa was released from jail on her own recognizance the same day she was arrested.

The city, for now, has placed her on paid administrative leave. Meanwhile narcotics agents are continuing to investigate whether Costa was part of a larger operation that may have involved other people.


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