SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY - On July 30-31, 2020, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office along with partner agencies investigated two illegal trespass cannabis grows in Northern San Luis Obispo County. The law enforcement officers cut down approximately 5,000 cannabis plants in various stages of growth, arrested five individuals and seized five weapons including a fully automatic AK 47 style assault rifle with a 30-round magazine and 100-round drum style magazine.
“Thankfully none of the law enforcement officers who investigated these two sites were harmed,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Illegal cannabis grow investigations can be very dangerous for law enforcement officers as, oftentimes, and as was the case here, the suspects are armed.”
- Carlos Martinez Espinoza, 35, of Delano
- Antonio Mendoza Alvarado, 26, of Delano
- Hector Fernando Zepeda Miranda, 36,of Santa Maria
- Jaime Rivera Mercado, 44, of Stockton
- Benjamin Rivera Mercado, 42, of Lodi
Law enforcement agencies that assisted the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office included:
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW),
- Homeland Security Investigations,
- Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP),
- Cal Fire,
- California Department Food and Agriculture (CDFA) - Cal-Cannabis,
- and the U.S. Forest Service Bureau of Land Management.
The illegal trespass grows were spotted by members of the Sheriff's Cannabis Enforcement Unit.. Evidence at the scenes indicated both grow sites may be part of a Mexican National cultivation operation. This type of operation, besides being illegal, produces many environmental hazards from the chemicals and pesticides used on the plants to the generation of large amounts of trash. A container of carbofuran was located at one of the properties, which is an illegal dangerous toxic pesticide known to be extremely hazardous. Nearby water sources were affected, with water diverted to water the cannabis plants. If the illegal plants had been allowed to mature, it is estimated the retail value of the cannabis would have been approximately five million dollars.
One of the suspects, Antonio Mendoza Alvarado had a criminal history with ties to a criminal street gang out of Delano.