FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) — Narcotics detectives with the Fresno County Sherrif’s office raided a remote plot of land southwest of Mendota on Friday containing over 50,000 marijuana plants.
Detectives say this is one of the largest illegal grows they have ever seen, and believe a cartel is behind the operation.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity because he works undercover, a narcotics detective working on this case says he and his team spotted the massive marijuana grow on Tuesday of this week while flying a surveillance helicopter in the area. When they arrived Friday morning after obtaining a search warrant, nobody was there, but they say they have a lead.
“It was just a happy accident that we found it,” the detective said. “We do know who the property owner is and we have a pretty good idea about a few of the people who were living on scene. “
Detectives believe this operation is run by a well-funded cartel, and say the grow operation was meticulously set up in greenhouses to maximize efficiency, and concealed from any passerbys with a dirt mound built around the property.
“The way the personnel structure is: there’s a boss, there’s workers, there’s firearms, the boss has the firearms, that kind of thing,” the detective said. “It’s just very sophisticated.”
Detectives estimate each plant can produce about $2,000 worth of cannabis, and there are over 50,000 plants at this farm. This means the whole crop could be worth over $100 million.
Boca Del Rio Farms is set to be Fresno County’s first legal cannabis grow operation just miles away in Mendota this summer. One of the owners says he’s not concerned about safety after this incident.
“You look at any of the counties where there’s legal production, there’s also a significant amount of illicit production, and they typically coincide with one another,” Dustin Moore said.
Detectives say the plants will be taken to an undisclosed location and buried. They estimate about 10 to 15 people worked on this operation with the cartel.