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$1.4 million in cash seized at Sebastopol marijuana farm

In what appears to set a Sonoma County record, detectives seized about $1.4 million in cash along with a trove of gold and silver pieces at a Sebastopol house where marijuana was being grown.

The money and precious metals with an undisclosed value were seized during a fire in August on Blank Road near Highway 116, according to search warrant documents.

Firefighters arrived at the house with its numerous outbuildings and found indoor and outdoor marijuana plants, some of them burning, the documents said. They summoned deputies, who conducted a search and turned up $1,427,960 in cash along with 1,421 gold and silver pieces, the documents said.

The amount appears to eclipse a previous record for drug-related seizures set in 1999 when Rohnert Park police found $536,000 in a backpack during a drug investigation at a hotel.

“I’m not aware of anything more than that,” said Assistant District Attorney Bud McMahon, who oversees asset forfeiture.

County records show law enforcement agencies have seized a combined $8 million in cash over the past five years. A majority of it is connected to the region’s lucrative marijuana industry.

Seizing agencies split the bulk of the money with prosecutors and the state. A portion of it must be spent on gang and drug prevention programs.

They also seize other items like cars and jewelry, which are sold at auction.

So far, no one has been arrested in the Blank Road case. An investigation has yielded no suspects although a person on the property was arrested but not charged, McMahon said.

A general claim for the money was filed by a marijuana collective, McMahon said. He didn’t release details about the claim, but said it has been turned over to the federal government, which will take over the case.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment. A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman could not provide details.

Local authorities discovered the cash after a fire broke out at the house in the 4500 block of Blank Road on Aug. 9.

The cause was never determined, a spokesman from the Gold Ridge Fire District said.

After firefighters arrived, deputies were called in and searched the property, including conducting an aerial survey using the sheriff’s helicopter, documents said.

Hundreds of pounds of processed marijuana was found, some packaged in plastic bags, along with a scale, cellphones and written records, according to the documents.

Deputies also seized rifle and shotgun ammunition and martial arts nunchakas, the documents said. A number of live plants were also seized.

The currency was in denominations ranging from $10s to $100s. Deputies also found 1,130 silver pieces and 291 gold pieces, the documents said.

Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.?On Twitter @ppayne.

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