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Tons of pot
FBI and Sheriff take $125 million from Mexican drug cartels
Seven arrested on Klamath River
* Massive law enforcement operation pulls out six tons of Mexican greenbud
By Daniel Webster, Pioneer Press Publisher September 20, 2006
HORSE CREEK - The neighbors were stunned when they awoke to helicopters flying overhead and the sheriff's department and FBI showing up en mass last Tuesday morning to pull out $125 million worth of marijuana from the mountains behind their homes.
Crew members from CNN flew in from Los Angeles to broadcast around the world the Mexican drug cartels involvement in our forests.
Sheriff Rick Riggins' department and California Highway Patrol arrested seven suspects and turned them over to federal authorities.
When all was said and done, law enforcement raided two separate marijuana plantations near the Klamath River, both of which appeared to be connected and both reportedly operated by upwards of 25 Mexican nationals.
The first raid was in the Maple Gulch area along the Klamath River and the second area was up Barkhouse Creek.
The growers clear-cut swaths of land, planting thousands of pot plants in plain view from the air. They were taking water from a year-round water supply and mixing their chemical fertilizer in with the water to feed and water the plants.
Although no one would state specifically how the grow was identified in the first place, Riggins simply told the Pioneer Press that it was "on our radar."
The sheriff wanted to get the plants out before buck hunting season began. He cautioned hunters to keep their eyes out for anything suspicious. If they find a grow in the forest, high tail it out of there and call the sheriff's department.
Authorities began their morning Tuesday at 4 a.m. More than 110 officers were involved, including staff from Jackson County and Shasta County sheriff's departments, the California Fish and Game Department, U.S. Forest Service, and agents from the Siskiyou County-wide Interagency Narcotics Task Force.
Helicopters from CHP and Brim Aviation airlifted agents into the grow and then hauled out the six tons of pot. A total of 25,000 plants were eradicated.
As the day wore on, Sheriff Chaplain Keith Bradley set up a kitchen at the command center up Horse Creek Road and began to cook meals for the men and women in uniform. He slept in his rig that night so he could have a hot breakfast of pancakes, eggs cooked to order, sausage and bacon in the morning.
Some of the team slept up at the grows overnight. The Siskiyou County Search and Rescue Unit was on hand and slept at the command post overnight.
Sheriff Riggins went into the sites with his men and the FBI to personally help with the eradication effort and search for evidence.
Ammunition and a cellular phone were some of the items found and logged into evidence by the FBI.
When the sheriff arrived at the grow, he found in the center of the plantation tomato, potato and chili plants growing. He jokingly yelled at his men, "your fired, these are tomato plants."
In the first plantation, up Maple Gulch, the sheriff found poorly grown pot plants. They were not "stressed" and still were being heavily watered. There were numerous male plants in the plantation which caused the female plants to produce seeds rather than large buds of pot.
"This takes the THC content (the chemical that gets people high) way down," said Captain Mike Murphy, with the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department. "It's a typical garden you'd find in Mexico 20 years ago."
The second plantation the sheriff's department and FBI raided was down Highway 96 behind the old golf course.
"It was a couple hundred yards off the road," Riggins told the Pioneer Press.
The smell of marijuana on the road was so strong, the sheriff knew they pulled up to the right spot.
Law enforcement official chased 11 to 18 Mexicans through the heavy woods in the first raid, but were unable to apprehend any of the suspects at the time.
It seemed obvious in the second grow that suspects had recently been present, prior to law enforcement arrival.
On Thursday morning officers from CHP stopped a vehicle traveling on Highway 96, near Collier Rest Stop north of Yreka, and detained five Hispanic males. A short time later, several calls came in that two Hispanic males were spotted near Quigley's Store in Klamath River. The sheriff's department contacted and detained these two males as well.
All seven were booked into the Siskiyou County Jail on immigration holds and officials from Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) came into town to pick them up.
The sheriff believes with the evidence that was confiscated at the scenes, more suspects will be arrested.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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