Federal authorities seized over 500,000 illegal marijuana plants in Merced County


A Merced County rancher could be facing federal criminal charges for allegedly having an illegal marijuana grow on his property. 

“This is an unprecedented grow,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said. 

According to search warrant, Chad Crivelli had 194 acres of marijuana on his farm land in the area of Hutchins Road and Palm Avenue in Dos Palos.

According to the warrant, earlier this year, Crivelli had contacted the Merced County Sheriff, Sergeant Raymond Framstad and the Merced Farm Board about his intention of planting hemp for the purpose. 

Warnke said Crivelli was advised not to plant hemp until state and local authorities had a registration process in place. 

In 2017, Merced County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance prohibiting the outdoor cultivation of marijuana. 

In August, the sheriff’s office were notified of a grow on Criveill’s property.

In September, investigators collected samples of the grow and were told by Criveill he was going to harvest his hemp in process it in Monterrey County, Las Vegas, and perhaps Oregon. 

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office contacted state and federal agents to help with this investigation. 

“The size and scope of this grow is of such a magnitude that we the federal government felt it was necessary to come in and help the sheriff with this issue in his county, U.S. attorney McGregor Scott said. 

According to deputies, marijuana plants that contain .3% or less of THC are considered hemp but Crivelli’s marijuana plant was over seven times the permissible limit for hemp. 

Sheriff Warnke said word was spreading fast about the marijuana grow and attracting people from Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley. 

Last week, deputies pulled over a vehicle which has 50 pounds of marijuana, the following day deputies pulled over another vehicle when the driver had over 200 marijuana plants. 

Investigators believe those suspects were stealing marijuana from Crivelli’s grow. 

“I want folks to realize it’s not allowed in this county and we will not tolerate it,” Warnke said. 

Crivelli could face federal charges for having an excess marijuana grow on his property. 

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