Nearly 3,700 marijuana found near Los Banos

July 12, 2010 

Nearly 3,700 marijuana plants worth $3.6 million were located this weekend at an outdoor rural area near Los Banos, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department reported.

No suspects are in custody.

Sheriff’s spokesman Tom MacKenzie said deputies hiked through ravines and gullies to the site about 10 miles west of Arburua Road around 6 a.m. Sunday.

The illicit crop was planted in rows along the sides of hills, similar to a grape vineyard. MacKenzie said the team of deputies spent the day at the site, eradicating the plants. Deputies also found a small, vacant encampment area where the culprits who tended to the garden slept.

Last weekend, deputies destroyed more than 9,000 plants from a site in Stevinson, with a street value estimated just under $10 million.

MacKenzie said investigators learned of the illegal grow after it was spotted by the sheriff’s helicopter. Thus far, the sheriff’s department has destroyed around 14,000 marijuana plants this year.

MacKenzie said it’s unknown whether the grow was tied to the Stevinson site, or who it's connected to.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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