Raids on California Marijuana grow houses often find Chinese ‘farmers’ inside
|| Sacramento Bee
“It’s hardly unusual for police in the Sacramento region to find an illegal marijuana grow house in an otherwise quiet suburb. But in several recent police raids, the occupants of these grow houses have turned out to be Chinese nationals, raising questions about about who is recruiting them and financing their operations.
Recent police raids in Yuba, Yolo, Placer and Sacramento counties have resulted in multiple arrests of people with Chinese passports, some of them speaking no English and apparently providing little help to investigators.
One recent indictment obtained by McClatchy asserts that money from a southern China bank account was transferred to California to pay for down payments on homes that later became grow houses, suggesting that at least some in China are investing the illicit U.S. marijuana market.
“These are sophisticated operations,” said Thomas Yu, a longtime Asian gang investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “When we hear about Asian gangs, we think about young guys doing drive-by shootings. This isn’t like that. These are organized ad hoc enterprises, run by businessmen. They are in it for the profit.”
Colorado is another state where police have arrested Chinese nationals in pot house busts, including in far-flung locations, such as Garfield County in Colorado’s northwest corner.
Last year, Garfield Sheriff Lou Vallario and his deputies descended on an illegal marijuana farm, arresting 14 suspects. To Vallario’s surprise, all 14 were Chinese citizens.
Vallario and other law enforcement officials are quick to note that people from many backgrounds – U.S. citizens, Mexicans, Russians – are involved in the illegal marijuana trade.
“We’ve had nationals from all over coming to this part of Colorado,” he said. “There are grow houses popping up in every neighborhood.”
Chinese operators in particular seem to be expanding their reach.
In three separate raids in September, authorities in California’s Yolo County and the cities of Roseville and Elk Grove arrested 13 Chinese immigrants in raids on marijuana grow houses.
In a case filed in U.S. District Court in July, prosecutors allege that 10 Chinese suspects with out-of-state driver’s licenses were growing marijuana inside nine Sacramento-area homes.
North of Sacramento, in Yuba County, sheriffs deputies arrested 14 Chinese — some U.S. citizens and some with Chinese passports — in three marijuana busts between March and May. Those raids hauled in 8,000 plants, six firearms and thousands of dollars in U.S. currency, according to the county, which says it has turned the case over to the U.S. Attorney’s office.”
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