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25,151 pot plants confiscated in Siskiyou County, California
-- Recent raid found 4,252 plants already harvested.
-- "This has been a real joint effort," said Sheriff Rick Riggins.
By Liz Bowen, assistant editor, Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California 10/20/04
SISKIYOU COUNTY, CALIFORNIA - Four arrests with ties to the Mexican Mafia has busted the local illegal marijuana business wide open.

The 25,151 marijuana plants confiscated by law enforcement, this year, is about the same number as last year. The difference in 2004, is that this harvest season finally garnished four major arrests.
Feds have arrested four suspects of a Mexican drug cartel.

Those arrests are four men who are suspects of the Lua organization, a Mexican drug cartel, which allegedly distributes illegal drugs from the California State capital city - Sacramento.

Federal charges of Conspiracy to Cultivate Marijuana have been brought against the Rafael Lua-Zaragoza and three others. Rafael was arrested during a bust on a Siskiyou County-based plantation. Two additional warrants are still outstanding.

One of the more recent raids also characterized the Mexican Mafia plantations seized earlier this fall. This one netted 4,252 plants from the Happy Camp area.

A Forest Service employee was flagging a boundary line about three miles north of Happy Camp on Cade Mountain and ended up face-to-face with two Hispanic males on Oct. 8. She immediately left the area and reported the incident to Forest Service law enforcement.

Lead Forest Service Patrol Officer, Jeff Brown, and his law enforcement officers worked together with the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Marijuana Eradication Team. They raided the area on Oct. 10. A large marijuana growing operation was found just 200 yards off the road. It was unoccupied, but 10 sleeping bags, two hooches, a large amount of food and 9mm ammunition were found in the plantation.
10 sleeping bags were found
No weapons were found, but the 4,252 pot plants had been harvested and were being dried on ropes. Fifty pounds of dried, processed marijuana was also discovered.

Siskiyou County Sheriff, Rick Riggins, said a helicopter from Burl Brim Aviation, assisted in the raid. The Sheriff's Special Response Team cleared the area before confiscation of the plants began. The plants were being watered from a nearby stream.

As the illegal marijuana harvesting season winds down, Sheriff Riggins praised the cooperation his department has received from other law enforcement agencies. He said that in reality it is difficult for a variety of different government agencies to create this kind of coordination.

"This has been a real joint effort," Sheriff Riggins explained, also praising his own employees. His department is down at least 13 positions and so the rest of the personnel have stepped-up to a big task. Many have put in extended overtime.

For many years, the local Forest Service patrol officers have worked hand-in-hand with the sheriff's department. This season several other agencies provided additional assistance and coordination.

Late last year, an investigation was started into methamphetamine trafficking and marijuana cultivation activities of the Lua organization from Sacramento north into Siskiyou County, according to the sheriff. The federal Bureau of Land Management and California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement from the Sacramento Regional Office were major players providing tracking devices and surveillance.

"We've learned a lot," said Sheriff Riggins, who has participated in raids and taken photographs of the plantations and confiscation activities.

Currently, Sheriff Riggins is putting together a Power Point presentation and will be taking it on the road to share with groups that are interested in this latest criminal development in rural Siskiyou County at the top of the state.

To schedule a presentation, call the sheriff's department at 530-842-8300.

The Pioneer Press, at the very top of the State of California, grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.





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