Armed men target marijuana in Merced County robbery


The sheriff's office says it's had at least three robberies in recent months at homes where marijuana was being grown.

In this case, the victim says her children had just left for school when the suspects invaded her property.

The victim, who does not want to be identified, says the men asked if there were any jobs available, and she told them no.

"I started walking back into my house, and he pulled a gun out on me, and I ran back in there."

That's when the men chased her inside.

"He told me to lay down flat on my face and put my hands over my head and don't move, while they ransacked my house."

The woman says the suspects got away with several items, including a jewelry box filled with sentimental pieces. Authorities say they also took a significant amount of marijuana.

Deputy Tom Mackenzie said, "This was not a major grow, but that a couple dozen plants between 20-30 plants, which would produce several pounds of marijuana."

Deputy Mackenzie says crimes like this are becoming increasingly common as more people grow large amounts of pot in plain sight.

"We've had tips of marijuana plants growing 10-14 feet tall over fence lines, and people aren't trying to hide it anymore because they believe it's legal," Deputy Mackenzie said.

The Merced multi-agency narcotic task force has been stepping up its efforts to shut down illegal grows by serving federal warrants. Just last month agents seized more than 625-thousand plants.

Deputy Mackenzie told Action News, "People have taken advantage of it, until there's guidelines set by the state we're going to enforce what we can enforce."

The victim of Thursday's robbery insists her marijuana was legal... But says she's not planning to grow it anymore because of the risk.

"It was my first ever experience, and I don't ever want it to happen again. It was really scary."

Authorities say in some of the recent robberies, the suspects have showed up wearing badges or police style uniforms.

So the Merced County Sheriff's Department and CHP have been working to educate people about what real law enforcement agencies wear and do during search warrants.

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