Federal authorities are maintaining their silence about a criminal investigation that led to a raid at the Potter Valley family property where a high-ranking member of Mendocino County law enforcement resides.
The investigation into possible marijuana cultivation has ensnared sheriff's Capt. Randy Johnson, who now is the subject of an internal Sheriff's Office probe to determine if he knew of any illegal activities on the family property. The probe is being conducted by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.
Federal sources say 500 marijuana plants were found during the raid.
The case is the latest in a string of marijuana investigations linked to Mendocino County officials or members of their families that in some cases have led to resignations and arrests.
The Oct. 11 federal raid on the property owned by the sheriff's captain and his father, Johnny Johnson, follows a federal crackdown on marijuana cultivation in what's known as the "Emerald Triangle" -- Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties -- despite California voter-approved medical marijuana laws.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said he launched the internal investigation after he was "stonewalled" by federal authorities.
"I want to know the facts," Allman said. "The federal government has not told me one thing, and I need to know if there's any validity to it."
Allman said he would expect federal agents to contact him if a member of his department was suspected of being involved in an illegal activity, but there's been no such contact.
"There's no indication Randy was involved," Allman said, and Johnson is still on the job.
Federal officials will not divulge who or what triggered their investigation, nor have they made any arrests. The search warrant records remain sealed.
The Johnson family has owned the 16-acre compound on Highway 20 for more than three decades. The property is served by a single, private drive but consists of two parcels. The larger, 11-acre parcel is owned jointly by the sheriff's captain and his father and includes their homes, among other structures. The smaller parcel is owned by the elder Johnson and includes numerous rental residences.
Sources familiar with the raid have said that the 500 plants were growing on the parcel owned solely by Johnny Johnson.
"I have never seen any pot growing," Johnny Johnson, 80, said last week during an interview at a trailer he's currently staying in on his property. His home, located next door to Randy Johnson's, is undergoing renovation.
A visit to the property last week revealed no readily visible evidence of marijuana cultivation from the private drive that leads from Highway 20 to the Johnsons' homes. It is standard practice by federal authorities to seize all illegal drugs that agents encounter, according to a spokesman with DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Tall fences and hostile tenants on the compound near the highway prevented further exploration of the site.
Another of Johnny Johnson's sons, John Johnson, who leases and operates the Brooktrails Lodge in Willits, also lives on the property.
He is in charge of renting out eight or nine rentals on the property, his father said. The residences are among more than a dozen structures in varying conditions at the site.
Both sons declined to comment on the search warrant served by federal agents, a team led by the DEA and aided by the FBI and IRS.
Tick Bite Prevention
To prevent tick bites, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services recommends:
Walk in the center of trails.
Use repellents that contain 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Treat clothing and gear (boots, socks, pants, tents, etc.) with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin.
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors, preferably within two hours.
Conduct a full-body tick check; parents should check children under arms, in and around ears, inside belly button, behind knees, between legs, around waist, especially in hair.
Examine gear and pets, which can bring home ticks that will then attach to a person.
Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for up to an hour to kill remaining ticks.
For more info, go to www.cdc.gov/lyme