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Mendocino County sheriff: Growers could face $3 million in fines after bust nets 20,000 marijuana plants

More than 20,000 marijuana plants were removed from illegal growing operations during a raid in Covelo last week, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

The Thursday raid, which involved about 50 law enforcement officers, targeted an illegal growing operation on Biggar Lane, the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

Authorities investigating the grow prior to the bust saw more than 100 hoop houses during a flyover and learned that the property owners had been denied permits to legally grow cannabis, authorities said.

With a warrant to search the property, authorities found “104 plastic style hoop houses, which were all being used for the purposes of marijuana cultivation,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Authorities destroyed 14,495 marijuana plants and 7,590 pounds of processed marijuana found on the site.

While searching the property, authorities noticed another illegal growing operation on the same block on two parcels owned by the Round Valley Tribe, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Officials destroyed 5,511 marijuana plants from the site.

“According to tribal members, this marijuana growing operation was being conducted by individuals trespassing who did not have permission to occupy the land,” the Sheriff’s Office said, noting that the Round Valley Tribal Police asked for help from law enforcement in destroying the plants.

Nobody has been arrested in connection with either grow, but the Sheriff’s Office has identified suspects, Capt. Greg Van Patten said.. He said the Sheriff’s Office plans to forward both cases to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

County code enforcement officials will also be pursuing legal action with fines up to $3 million for the larger grow, according to Van Patten.

The Sheriff’s Office is finding larger illegal marijuana gardens every year in the Covelo area, Van Patten said.

"They’re hiding right out in the open,“ he said. ”We’re talking about right down on the valley floor where you can drive your car right up to it.“

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Pera at matthew.pera@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Matt__Pera.

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