Giant pot grow raided on the Valley floor in Fresno County


The DEA and sheriff's deputies have been inside the field all day, cutting down as many as 50,000 marijuana plants after serving a rare federal search warrant.

From the sky, you can see how vast this pot farm is -- more than 50 acres, filled with /*marijuana*/ in various stages of maturity. /*Fresno County*/ sheriff's deputies say it's the biggest they've ever seen on the Valley floor, so they enlisted help from federal agents.

"There seems to be a growing trend of, for lack of a better term, agricultural marijuana grows," said DEA special agent John Donnelly.

Officers raided the grow site early in the morning and detained all of the 50 or so people who were on the property.

A search of county records revealed the site is owned by /*Goon Pattanumotana*/, who is a part-time economics professor at /*Willow International*/.

Investigators aren't sure of his connection to the growers, but Fresno County /*Sheriff Margaret Mims*/ says the field has been a major problem for more than a year.

"This is actually a domestic drug trafficking cartel," she said. "The same piece of property was involved in some crimes last year, so it really is blatant."

Last year, in an Action News exclusive, we followed marijuana from the same field to Texas, and investigators say growers shipped the supposed medical marijuana all over the country.

Deputies say this year's grow was a lot bigger. It definitely caught the attention of neighbors in a nearby development.

"We thought they were strawberry farms in the beginning and then you notice it started getting like walls and then black paper and then people waling late at night with flashlights into the field," said Lorraine Ramirez, who lives in the development.

People here say the field made them worry for their children, many of whom attend Sanger's /*Reagan Elementary School*/, less than a mile away from the grow site, where many marijuana seedlings never grew into mature marijuana plants.

Investigators say there's no evidence this pot had left the state this year. They arrested most of the people they found at the site, and their investigation into Fresno County pot grows will continue through the summer.

Because of temperatures near 100, several deputies and agents working to cut down the plants suffered heat-related injuries. At least one had to be hospitalized.

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