This article first appeared in the “Ojai Valley News” on September 6, 2000. It is reprinted here with their permission.
Local bust nets marijuana valued at $4 to $5 million
by Lenny Roberts
OVN staff reporter
It’s apparently that time of year again, when sophisticated marijuana farms are discovered by authorities on routine helicopter patrols of Ojai’s backcountry.
Recently, more than 4,000 high-grade plants were uprooted and destroyed after being located in what Sheriff’s Capt. Dennis Carpenter described as a very remote area of northern Matilija Canyon, in the Los Padres National Forest, with no known trails in or out of the area.
Carpenter, in a prepared statement, said that narcotics investigators discovered the clandestine farm approximately two weeks ago, but did not move in immediately in an attempt to identify the responsible parties.
On Aug. 28, investigators entered the site and found more than 3,000 plants, along with a sophisticated cultivation operation. The subjects fled the area prior to the deputies’ arrival.
Three days later, investigators returned to the site and removed an additional 1,055 plants. Several miles of concealed water lines were found, along with an encampment that served at least four people. The confiscated weed has an estimated street value of between $4- and $5 million.
Also discovered at the site were large quantities of food, two rifles and a base camp with assorted tools. Carpenter revealed the subjects had caused a “significant amount of damage to the natural vegetation and habitat, which included the killings of two deer and a fox.”
Authorities hope they will be able to identify those responsible from evidence collected at the site.
The find was the first since October 1999 when a sheriff’s pilot discovered 662 high-grade marijuana plants growing in a Ladera Canyon pot farm, three miles north of Ojai. Those plants had an estimated street value of $1.2 million, according to authorities.
In 1996, three major discoveries in the mountains surrounding Ojai yielded a combined payload of more than 16,000 high-grade sensamilla plants, with a potential value of more than $86 million. In September 1998, after a year of excessive rain, narcotics officers announced the destruction of 1,157 high-grade plants found in an isolated area off Sulphur Mountain Road. The plants had an estimated street value in excess of $4 million.
No arrests have been made in any of the finds, which investigators believe may be related.