A severe drought did not stop several suspects (including two who live in Bloomington) from using between 5,000 and 6,000 gallons of water per day for an illegal marijuana grow, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
Members of the Sheriff’s Marijuana Enforcement Team served several search warrants for illegal marijuana cultivation operations at residences in Lucerne Valley in the High Desert. Investigators found outdoor marijuana cultivations on these properties in violation of the county ordinance.
The suspects included Maria Andrade, 44, and Agripina Caron, 54, both of Bloomington; Carlos Veliz-Fierro, 34, of Victorville; Jose Gonzalez-Ruiz, 40 (identified as a transient and a non-U.S. citizen); Michael Beck, 66, of Lucerne Valley; and Eric Saul Aguilar, 24, of Sacramento.
At all of the locations, the marijuana plants were found growing in unsecured areas. Each investigation revealed the marijuana growing operation was not in compliance with California medical marijuana laws, the Sheriff's Department said.
Additionally, all of the locations were in violation of the county’s ordinance prohibiting outdoor marijuana cultivations and multiple building code violations, the Sheriff's Department said.
At one property on Rabbit Springs Road, more than 1,300 marijuana plants were seized. The plants ranged in height from 4 to 6 feet in height and were in various stages of growth.
Two suspects at that location, Fierro and Ruiz, attempted to flee from deputies on foot, but were arrested and taken into custody, the Sheriff's Department said.
The investigation revealed the property owner, Beck, allegedly entered into an agreement and leased/rented a portion of his property to grow marijuana. Fierro and Ruiz were allegedly hired to take care and maintain the plants. Investigators also discovered that 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of water per day was being used to upkeep and water the plants.
Fierro and Ruiz were booked into the San Bernardino County jail for cultivating marijuana and possessing marijuana for sales. Charges against Beck will be sent to the District Attorney’s Office for review.
In addition, investigators arrested Aguilar without incident at a location next door to the Rabbit Springs Road location. He was found allegedly cultivating marijuana on this property. More than 800 marijuana plants and a large amount of harvested/processed marijuana was found at this location.
Aguilar claimed he was growing the marijuana for a marijuana delivery service named Green Thumb Delivery Service. More than 850 documents containing the personal information for alleged members of this delivery service was exposed and kept in an unsecure area outside in the garden area. This information included the names, birth dates, physical description and addresses of persons.
Law enforcement personnel caution the public to be wary of the information they provide to businesses or individuals because of the growing problem relating to identity theft.
Aguilar was arrested for cultivation of marijuana and possessing marijuana for sales in Riverside County in May of this year. He faces the same charges for his participation in this criminal investigation and was booked into the San Bernardino County jail.
The county’s ordinance prohibiting outdoor marijuana cultivations has been in effect for some time now, the Sheriff's Department said. Property owners who have been contacted by individuals interested in renting or leasing their property for the purpose of growing marijuana should be cautious and contact Land Use Services to confirm the growing operation is within the conditions set forth by the county. Property owners may be issued citations and held responsible for violations found on their property. This can include civil and criminal penalties, fines or both.
Anyone with information should contact the Sheriff’s Gangs/Narcotics Division at (909) 890-4840. Callers wishing to remain anonymous are urged to call the We-tip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463) or leave information on the We-Tip Hotline at www.wetip.com.