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N. Calif. marijuana network hit

June 26, 2008|Tim Reiterman | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Raids this week on a massive commercial marijuana operation with indoor growing facilities and thousands of acres in Northern California's pot belt have netted 10,000 plants worth up to $60 million, $160,000 in cash and 30 firearms, authorities reported Wednesday.

A force of 450 officers from numerous agencies Tuesday served dozens of search warrants. Officials said Wednesday they still were searching almost 2,000 acres in Humboldt and Mendocino counties that belonged to the targets of the 2-year-old investigation.

Authorities arrested one man who allegedly assaulted a federal agent serving a warrant.

The state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement began the probe in early 2006, officials said, after a California-based organization bought a large parcel of mountainous land. Authorities suspected that people associated with the group were growing marijuana in buildings and greenhouses and then selling it.

Tuesday's raids also focused on numerous residences and growing houses in Humboldt County.

"This is not a medical marijuana operation or a group of people growing for personal use," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlene B. Thornton. "The targets . . . are reaping huge profits while contributing to the crime and violence oppressing communities across the state."

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tim.reiterman@latimes.com

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