Arrests made on pot farms
by Lenny Roberts
To hard-working farmers, harvesting is a time when they and
their families reap the results of their yearly efforts.
To law enforcement, it's just September, when the cat-and-mouse
game of trying to catch the bad guys generally favors the illegal
aliens who are hired to tend marijuana cultivation sites. This
time, the good guys apparently won the battle.
After a couple of years of not finding any marijuana plants in
forest areas north of town, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department
began eradicating several cultivation sites in the Los Padres
National Forest Tuesday afternoon in what authorities are describing
as two unrelated incidents.
But unlike recent finds of tens of thousands of high-grade sinsemilla
plants worth millions of dollars that began in 1996 when no suspects
were apprehended, six people have been arrested and will be formally
charged with cultivating a yet-to-be-determined amount of the
"For the past two days, a multiagency operation consisting
of the United States Forest Service, Ventura County Narcotics
Task Force, Sheriff's Department, Sheriff's Aviation Unit and
Vandenberg Air Force Base personnel have been seizing marijuana
plants and removing grower campsites in the area around Wheeler
Gorge," said Eric Nishimoto, Sheriff's public information
officer. As of Wednesday evening, there have been over 2,000
mature plants seized so far.
The location of the plants is inside the Los Padres National
Forest, north and east of Wheeler Gorge.
In the Mutau Creek operation, Gilbert Ramirez, 25, and Bernardo
Bueno, 46, both of Los Angeles area, have been arrested. In the
Wheeler Gorge operation, three Hispanic aduts and one Hispanic
juvenile have been arrested.
Prior to the Wheeler Gorge operation, the same multi-agency team
found a small cultivation site in the Mutau Creek area last Sunday,
when Bueno and Ramirez were allegedly found tending the marijuana.
On Sunday, 85 plants were seized.
"Besides the marijuana," Nishimoto continued, "there
is a significant harmful impact on the environment due to the
grower campsites and the large amount of trash left."
He explained that natural water sources are being diverted or
polluted, and natural vegetation has been destroyed and cleared
to make room for marijuana plants.
"The introduction of noxious weeds is killing off the natural
vegetation, and the extensive use of pesticides and other poisons
to protect the cultivations are killing native wildlife,"
Furthermore, trash generated by the cultivations, most of which
is polluting and non-biodegradable, is considerable and difficult
and costly to remove.
Nishimoto said more information will be forthcoming as the operation
is still under way.
Before moderate amounts of pot were identified on forest land
and destroyed in 1998 and 1999, three major plantations were
found in the mountains surrounding Ojai in 1996 that yielded
a combined payload of more than 16,000 high-grade plants. There
were no pot fields reported in 1997, when it was believed that
rains generated by El Niño held productivity down, and
no substatial cultivation sites were reportedly discovered in
2000 or 2001.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
Back to the news
OF MARIJUANA are airlifted out of Wheeler Gorge.