$10M cash, 100K marijuana plants seized in Bay Area’s largest-ever bust


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Detectives from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office say an 18-month investigation has resulted in the seizure of more than $10 million in cash, more than $100,000. Marijuana plants, 6 tons of processed marijuana, worth more than $40 million, and a stash of weapons.


The bust marks the largest illegal escalation operation ever conducted in the Bay Area, and by far the largest in the state, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Ray Kelly announced Thursday.

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The illegal farming operation was sophisticated, and the sheriff’s office says the quality of the marijuana was the best they’ve ever seen.

Kelly said the operation involved more than a dozen locations spread across the East Bay. Specifically, these included Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, and the Castro Valley.

Photo: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

In all, Kelly says a total of 500,000 square feet of commercial real estate was devoted to the operation. In the Bay Area, the cost of renting that much commercial space is several million dollars a month. The average size of each space was about 70,000 square feet, but some were smaller, such as 10,000 square feet, Kelly said.

RELATED: Union City Police Bust Up Growing Marijuana Operation Worth Up to $11 Million

Inside, operation was streamlined and equipment was plentiful.

“Some places had corporate-style furniture, break rooms. They had wine, refrigerators with a thousand bottles of wine that they just sipped on. Television, vending machines, break rooms,” Kelly said .

Those responsible were not named, but Kelly says the organization is well-connected within the state and possibly across the nation. “These people have ties to foreign nationals,” Kelly said.

Photo: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives say the operation resulted in millions of dollars in profits. It is not clear how long the operation was running successfully.

There was also a “tremendous quantity” of confiscated weapons, at least a dozen. These include hand grenades, rifles and shotguns.

Seven people believed to be the “key persons” of the operation are in custody. Kelly said there are other people that representatives are looking for as well. None of the seven have been identified. “I’m sure they’ll bail because they have millions of dollars to post bail,” Kelly said.

Responding to a question about California residents dismantling marijuana used as medicine, Kelly said the sheriff’s office has a duty to intervene in illegal operations. In addition to non-payment of taxes and license fees, the illegal operation also threatened the safety of the communities in which it operated.


Photo: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s not legal. It doesn’t meet the limits and guidelines set by the state of California. I don’t think we’ll take responsibility for vouching for this cannabis and wanting it to go into our community. That’s why it needs to be destroyed.” The courts have agreed and ordered to do so,” Kelly said.

In addition to the plants and cash, the spies confiscated various infrastructure used to grow the plants. This includes specialized lighting, power generators to run the lights, and other miscellaneous supplies commonly used to grow marijuana.

“The enormity and complexity of this illegal development campaign cannot be expressed in words or pictures, it is unbelievable,” Kelly said.

At one location in Oakland, detectives say there was more than $1 million in electrical generators alone. “These places draw so much power that they have to create their own energy,” Kelly said.


Photo: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives will be at the scene for the next several days. The various scenes contain “an overwhelming amount of evidence”.

“We’ve been working on this for two days. Our people are tired. They’re tired. It’s a lot of work. So much so that we had to get chainsaws and a gas-powered hedge trimmer to cut down all the plants because otherwise it would It would have taken us weeks and weeks to cut it all by hand,” Kelly said.

ALSO: Illegal Marijuana Grow Operation Found in Hayward’s Garin Regional Park


Photo: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Duncan Seinfeld is a reporter for KTVU. Email Duncan [email protected], and follow Twitter.

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