Less than a day after the Merced County Sheriff's Office's marijuana enforcement team busted an illegal marijuana stash house, resulting in one of its largest confiscations of processed marijuana, the marijuana enforcement team dismantled two more illegal marijuana cultivation operations in Delhi and Atwater.
About 1,600 pounds of processed marijuana were confiscated after serving a search warrant Friday morning at a home in the 9100 block of Hinton Avenue in Delhi, Sgt. Ray Framstad said.
Within the last 10 days, the Sheriff's Office aviation unit identified a large marijuana grow at the home, Framstad said. As the marijuana enforcement team arrived at the home, two people fled the property. One was detained, but the other escaped.
Several women, including 27-year-old Planada resident Marina Samano Pimentel, were found inside the home, along with two small children, Framstad said.
During a search of the home, the team found a loaded 9 mm handgun in a night stand.
"It was easily accessible to the children," Framstad said, adding that Samano Pimentel claimed ownership of the firearm, the property and the illegal marijuana grow operation.
Samano Pimentel was booked into the Merced County Sheriff's Main Jail for misdemeanor marijuana charges and felony charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and child endangerment. Her bond amount was set at $50,500, according to jail records.
Child protective services was called out and negotiated with Samano Pimentel to leave the two children with a relative before she was arrested.
Later in the afternoon, two deputies responded to the 6800 block of Fruitland Avenue in Atwater after several concerned citizens complained of an illegal marijuana grow.
"You could smell the marijuana from quite a distance away," Sgt. Clint Landrum said.
No one answered the door when Landrum and another deputy knocked. So they went out toward the back. And that's when several individuals ran from the home, he said.
Landrum said it was tough to follow them into certain areas because of safety concerns. And as that was happening, another suspect fled from the front of the home.
Authorities didn't have anyone in custody Friday evening, but Landrum said he hopes evidence in the home may help to identify one or more of those individuals.
The home, Landrum described, was modified to cultivate outdoor grown marijuana by drying it out in one room and snipping out buds in another. An air mattress and clothes were set in a corner. And signs of a converted home were visible outside the property, including an open front door with a fan blowing out, a window air conditioning unit with a reflective window cover, and an excessive amount of garbage bags.
The house is located less than 1,500 feet away from Atwater High School, from where sounds of the Friday football game were audible as authorities searched the property.
The enforcement team was tallying the processed and unprocessed marijuana plants Friday evening. But Landrum estimated the total haul to weigh about 800 pounds.
Framstad credits the drug bust to concerned citizens who called the Sheriff's Office for pointing authorities to the property.
"There are obviously people abusing the 12-plant rule for medicinal marijuana, and it continues to get worse," Sheriff Vern Warnke said Friday evening. "These folks need to know that this office takes quality of life very seriously. And those who exceed the growth limit are going to be dealt with."
The enforcement team is expecting to serve three more search warrants for illegal marijuana grows Friday evening.