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California Officials Bust Huge Subterranean Pot Farm

After discovering a large subterranean cannabis cultivation facility, police in San Bernardino County filed 11 charges against the individuals. The group was charged with felony cultivation and violating the environment law.

Officials from law enforcement put the estimated value of cannabis products seized from Newberry Springs property at $9million on the illegal market. However, police estimates and those from prosecutors were criticized in recent months as being overinflated.

The charges against the defendants are related “to an industrial-sized subterranean illegal marijuana grow in Newberry Springs, a processing warehouse, and other properties used in conjunction with the selling, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis,” according to a statement from law enforcement officials.

California Two Property Aids

Police first served a search warrant at the property in the small California high desert town in August 2020, according to arrest records from the sheriff’s department. Law enforcement agents discovered on the property eight greenhouses that contained approximately 2000 cannabis plants as well as more than 100 lbs of marijuana processed. Cheng Lin, the original owner of this land was arrested and charged with felony conspiracy. Two other suspects were also detained on the spot during the raid.

Prosecutors say that Lin purchased the property from Qiaoyan Liu after the initial raid. Qiaoyan Liu is facing a felony conspiracy count. The property was raided again by police on March 3. During that action, officers with the sheriff’s department’s cannabis enforcement team discovered a large red shipping container known as a Conex box next to a house at the location.

“Upon searching the Conex box, deputies discovered the floor opened and were able to descend into an underground bunker,” the statement reads, according to a report from the Victorville Daily Press. “The bunker was 230 feet in length by 60 feet in width. It was constructed with over 30 Conex boxes approximately 15 feet below the ground.”

It covered 14,000 sq. feet, and more than 600 illicit marijuana plants. Deputies also discovered a reserve of 5,500 gallons of fuel to power “generators that were used to air out the space and cure the plants,” according to Anderson.

Prosecutors also allege that “processed marijuana was found in the residence of Cheng Lin, as well as a commercial lease agreement in Cheng Lin’s name, for a commercial building in which law enforcement found numerous items used for the cultivation of marijuana and over (200) pounds of marijuana product.”

Felony Charges Filed

A provision in state law allows stricter penalties for actions that cause harm to the environment. The district attorney wants to upgrade the felony charges against illegal cultivation. Defendants in the case have been charged with “illegal discharge of waste and intentionally and with gross negligence causing substantial harm to public lands and other public resources.”

Anderson said that the case is indicative of law enforcement’s response to unlicensed cannabis cultivation in the area. Anderson also pledged to seize the property of those who own land that was used for illegal cannabis cultivation.

“Once we can say that these properties are known to contain a nuisance, we’re gonna take the property,” the district attorney said on Monday.

“If those folks can’t remediate the properties through appropriate sentence(s) that we may get in this particular case, then we will work with the county to try to take that property and then sell that property,” he added. “The taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for the illegal conduct that’s been engaged in here.”

Anderson stated that enforcement of the law against illegal cannabis cultivation is a protection for growers who took the time and effort to obtain licenses.

“You’re putting unfair competition on an industry that’s trying to be regulated,” Anderson said about illicit cannabis growers. Anderson compared the illegal cannabis cultivation operations to an Amazon counterfeit distribution warehouse.

“We have a bootleg Amazon selling illegal or counterfeit products out of a warehouse that’s buried underground,” he said. “Who can compete against that? Jeff Bezos couldn’t compete against that.”

The case has led to the arrest and conviction of eight defendants, five of whom were also on the premises at the time that the second search warrant was issued. Six additional defendants were also arrested by law enforcement officers, but they are not currently in custody.