Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 6:59 pm | Fair 60º


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Greenhouse Pot Factory Busted in Raid Near Dos Pueblos Canyon

Sheriff's detectives seize 10,000 plants and processed marijuana with an estimated value of more than $41 million

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department busted what could be the biggest illegal indoor grow in the county’s history in a Thursday morning raid that yielded nine large greenhouses full of marijuana plants.

Narcotics detectives are still counting, but there appear to be about 10,000 plants with a street value of about $40 million, according to Drew Sugars, a department spokesman. Detectives also seized several hundred pounds of processed marijuana with a street value of up to $1 million.

Once a part of the Dos Pueblos Orchid Co., the 50-acre private parcel is located on the south side of Highway 101 near Dos Pueblos Canyon.

The marijuana-filled greenhouses are apparently leased out, but it doesn’t appear that the property owner knew what the tenants were using the site for, Sugars said.

“It’s converted basically into a marijuana factory,” he said.

Sheriff’s detectives worked on a tip to identify the property, which includes indoor grow sites with lights, fans, heaters, drying rooms and areas for processing and packaging the marijuana, according to a Sheriff’s Department statement. Authorities say it is unclear where the marijuana was going after it was processed.

A heat and ventilation system allows year-round harvesting, but it was unclear how long the operation has existed. The plants appear to be at least a few months old, Sugars said.

“This is by far the most elaborate indoor and greenhouse marijuana operation I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been on more eradications than I can count,” said sheriff’s Lt. Sonny LeGault of the Narcotics Unit.

Two men were arrested while trying to flee during the search warrant, and were booked into County Jail on suspicion of felony possession of marijuana for sale and felony cultivation of marijuana. John Freeman Dobson, 57, and Kelvin Kent Kelley, 62, are being held on $30,000 bail. Kelley was also booked for resisting/evading arrest.

Because of the magnitude of the operation, Sugars said it is possible that more arrests may be made. The investigation is still considered open.

In cases like this, the marijuana is either disposed of or saved as evidence, but Sugars wasn’t sure what would happen in this case.

At the end of July, the Sheriff’s Department eradicated 5,800 young marijuana plants worth an estimated $5.7 million once grown in the canyon east of Mariposa Reina on the Gaviota coast.

On Sunday night, detectives teamed up with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department to bust a marijuana garden near Santa Maria. More than 5,400 plants were seized and three people were arrested in that raid.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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