During the Independence Day weekend, El Monte police department had good reason to celebrate. A burglar call lead police to the biggest drug bust the city has ever seen.
Police were called to the 2500 block of Continental Ave. to investigate a burglary that was in progress. When police arrived at the scene they found a U-Haul truck with four men and one teenage boy. They were wearing gardening gloves, masks and had weed clippers. In front of what looked like an abandoned warehouse.
When police apprehended the suspect’s one of the individuals informed the department of a marijuana growing operation in the building. During the investigation the men admitted that they were going to break into the warehouse and steal the marijuana plants. One of the robbery suspects said that the operation belonged to his family and they were cutting him out of the profits. Now he is afraid for his life thinking that his family will seek retribution.
After the tip El Monte police issued a warrant to go into the warehouse. Police found more than 3,000 marijuana plants, with an estimated value of over $1 million. Officers said that this is “the biggest drug bust in El Monte history.”
At the entrance of the building there was a three foot crawl space where a security guard was supposed to be stationed. The guard watched with a gun through an air-conditioning vent. There were seven different rooms with a sophisticated irrigation system and grow lights that were nourishing the marijuana plants. Police say that the marijuana plants were just three weeks away form harvest.
They also found a giant hole through the concrete that lead under the building. This is where they were able to avoid being detected, because they stole electricity from underground wires before they hit the meters. Authorities believe that they stole an estimated value of $10,000 to $25,000 in electricity a month from Southern California Edison.
“This is high-grade marijuana compared to most of the lower-grade marijuana that comes from Mexico. This is obviously worth a lot more. Where low grade can cost $300, $400 per pound, this can cost anywhere from $1,500 to maybe $3,000 per pound,” said and anonymous official.
Police det. Ralph Batres commented, “It’s something that we want off the street in our city. In any city nobody wants this especially so close to a neighborhood.”
Police spent all day cutting down the plants and stuffing them into boxes and stored them for evidence. Investigators are trying to determine who was operating such a large marijuana grow building.