Pot busts leads to discovery of $2.6 million in plants, two arrests

Los Banos EnterpriseMarch 31, 2014 

— The Los Banos Police Department confiscated $2.6 million worth of marijuana and made two arrests in two days as it served search warrants on four homes suspected of being illegal grow sites and was called to another following a fire.

Cmdr. Jason Hedden said police discovered marijuana grow operations on the 100 block of North Santa Rosa Street, 400 block of Vine Street, 1700 block of San Simeone Way and the 600 block of Kensington Circle on Monday. Hedden said the marijuana grows do not appear to be connected.

“These were sophisticated operations,” Hedden said. “They had systems controlling the lighting; they all were stealing electricity.”

Hedden said the home on Vine Street had electric wires that were beginning to melt – a fire hazard – due to the amount of electricity being used.

Police said 1,056 marijuana plants were found at the four locations.

Jesus Efrain Lopez-Felix, 21, was arrested at the North Santa Rosa Street address and Se Min Kin (aka Mike Parks) was taken into custody at the San Simeone Way home, both on suspicion of cultivating and possession of marijuana and stealing electricity.

Lopez-Felix is being held at the Los Banos Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail. Kin was released after posting bail.

Sgt. Ivan Mendez said police are searching for other people believed to be involved in the four marijuana operations.

Search warrants were served at the homes starting at 9 a.m., police said, and officers spent the next five hours gathering evidence.

Hedden said law enforcement will emphasize eradicating illegal marijuana grow operations in Los Banos.

“I’m sure there are more houses out there like this. We will make arrests whenever these pop up,” he said.

Tuesday discovery

A fire that may have been arson led police to a marijuana grow site that included an additional $1 million worth of the illegally grown plants Tuesday morning.

Fire Chief Chet Guintini said his office received a call reporting smoke coming from the attic of a home on the 1000 block of Montgomery Avenue at 10 a.m.

Guintini said when firefighters arrived they discovered the fire had started in the master bedroom and smoke traveled to the attic through the ventilation system. Guintini said people were seen fleeing the area after the fire started, making him suspect arson as a cause.

Firefighters also discovered marijuana plants inside the home, leading police to be called.

Cmdr. Jason Hedden said 700 marijuana plants and four guns were found at the residence. One of the guns was reported stolen.

Hedden said police are searching for two or three Hispanic males driving a green Ford Explorer. Hedden said electricity was being stolen at the residence in a similar manner to what occurred at the grow sites searched on Monday.

Anyone with information about these incidents can call the Los Banos Police Department at (209) 827-7070 ext. 0.

Enterprise Reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

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