Photos: Police seize $2.3 million worth of marijuana plants from Santa Ana warehouse grow operation

Photos: Police seize $2.3 million worth of marijuana plants from Santa Ana warehouse grow operation


March 20, 2015

Updated 5:11 p.m.

Police seized more than 1,600 marijuana plants in various growth stages from a Santa Ana warehouse Friday.JEFF GRITCHEN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


They left in a hurry. Shoes, clothes and coffee cups were scattered on the floor of a Santa Ana warehouse, where firefighters stumbled upon a “sophisticated” – and illegal – marijuana growing operation when they responded to a fire alarm Friday morning.

Inside they found marijuana plants worth approximately $2.3 million.

Around 7 a.m., Orange County Fire Authority firefighters went to the 1100 block of E. 17th St. The unlabeled, gray building sits at the end of a long alley between homes and a row of industrial warehouses.

When firefighters showed up to the building, they saw five men bolting from the back alley and driving off in different cars. In haste, they left the warehouse open. The firefighters went in to search for flames.

“They found no fire but did find 1,600 marijuana plants in various stages of growth,” Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

After getting a search warrant around 11:45 a.m., Santa Ana police began combing the building that is hidden from street traffic and at the end of a cul-de-sac of warehouses.

Inside, detectives found that the 10,000-square-foot warehouse was divided into illegally constructed rooms for growing the 1,636 plants.

The rooms were just off a main area that had chairs and a dirty folding table covered in leaves and ashes. Around it were boxes of cup noodles, ventilation fans and construction supplies ready to be used.

“They were developing this place,” Bertagna said. “There was a lot of construction they were doing.”

City code enforcement officials also were at the warehouse to check out the many modifications. At least six growing rooms had elaborate electrical, irrigation and ventilation systems that require more power than the warehouse should be using, according to Alvaro Nunez, a city building official.

Nunez is also part of the task force that works with police to crack down on illegal marijuana dispensaries. This is one of the biggest ones he’s seen.

“This could blow up,” Nunez said, pointing to a modified fuse box with a small fan pointing toward it.

“They know this could overheat, so they put a fan there to cool it down.” The emergency exits were locked with chains and padlocks.

Each room had plants in different stages of growth. The “Baby Room” for new buds was just off the main room and had detailed fertilizing schedules on a chart outside the door next to a giant white board calendar.

The “Dry Room,” with walls strewn with pornography, was one designated for larger plants and contained dilapidated arm chairs.

The rest of the warehouse had other rooms with even bigger plants. One room was empty but was being readied for another batch.

Around 12:40 p.m., detectives started clearing the operation and officers were trying to track down the tenets. Often, tenants lease then sublease, officials said. No arrests have been made.

Dealing with illicit dispensaries is not new for Santa Ana. As recently asFebruary, police found 2,100 marijuana plants inside another commercial building.

But marijuana dispensaries have constantly been a hot-button issue.

Measure BB, the city-crafted law approved by voters on Nov. 4, repealed the ban on medical marijuana facilities that the City Council approved in 2007 to stem the proliferation of such operations.

In early February, 20 applicants were chosen in a lottery to put them on a path to legally distribute medical marijuana in the city.

“We do have those 20, but those aren’t up and running yet. This is an illegal grow,” Bertagna said of Friday’s discovery.

Unlike the deserted warehouse, a neighboring printing company was bustling with people. A worker who didn’t give his name said they never really knew what happened in the business next door.

“We never see anybody,” he said. “There’s no one ever there.”

Investigators on Friday were trying to contact the owner of the building. It is unclear whether any relationship existed between the owner and tenants.

“Whether the owner knows what’s going on in here or not, it’s their responsibility for getting this building up to code again,” Nunez said.



Our website provides our patients with information on our various strains and educates each individual with current medical marijuana facts and laws.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *