An ongoing Lake County marijuana investigation led to 10 arrests of workers suspected of growing more than 5,000 plants in or near Clear Lake marshland, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.
The men used a variety of chemicals, raising concerns of potential water and ground contamination.
Authorities said the men arrested last week were working for a drug trafficking organization using Big Valley Rancheria tribal lands south of Lakeport.
None of the suspects are connected to Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians living in the rancheria, Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said.
Sheriff Martin said the case is unique because it required detectives to navigate tribal laws as well as state laws regulating marijuana cultivation. The investigation’s finding of environmental crimes pushed the investigation forward, the sheriff said.
After several weeks of investigation, 35 law enforcement officers from seven local, state and federal agencies, led by the Sheriff’s Office, arrived at the rancheria about 8 a.m. Oct. 10. They searched 14 properties, most of which were in the rancheria. Agents found 5,200 growing plants and more than 500 pounds of processed cannabis, Sheriff’s Lt. Corey Paulich said. Numerous residents gathered as the raids unfolded, Martin said.
Grow sites were found in a creek feeding Clear Lake and in and along marshland of the Rumsey Slough, which is part of Clear Lake’s high water mark.
“We found some was growing in the floodplain, amongst the tules that grow along the shoreline,” Martin said.
With the plants were chemical containers and other evidence of commercial insecticide, soil products and fertilizers being used to tend the plants. Some chemicals were seeping into the ground and marsh, threatening the waterway as well as animals and plants, Paulich said.
Garbage and other debris from the pot cultivation also were found in the marshland.
Some of the suspects ran from officers but were found hiding in the brush or trying to get out of the area.
Arrested were Jose Ceja-Torres, 29; Cristian Garcia Saucedo, 22; Arnulfo Barragan, 39; Miguel Saucedo, 31; Braulio Vargas Saucedo, 25; and Severiano Cerda, 28; all of Clearlake; Gilberto Figueroa, 20, of Santa Rosa; Cesar Godinez, 31, of Ukiah; and Fernando Rodriguez, 27, of Rockford, Ill.
The suspects were booked into the Lake County Jail, suspected of felony marijuana cultivation and associated environmental crimes, felony conspiracy to and possession of marijuana for sale.
All 10 were released after posting bail, officials said.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@rossmannreport.