Monday, 02 October 2006 04:49

Marijuana Busts

slide17The indoor marijuana-growing operations busted this month throughout the valley in successive raids in several residential neighborhoods will now become part of a larger federal probe in the region. On Thursday A federal grand jury in Sacramento handed down indictments on four San Francisco men arrested Sept. 13 in the first of the raids in Stockton, said Gordon Taylor, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency assistant special agent in charge.

slide18Federal prosecution is already under way in what investigators say is a related operation involving 21 houses in Sacramento and Elk Grove that also led to four arrests. Federal agents have been assisting valley police for two weeks, Taylor said. "This is without a doubt the most sophisticated criminal syndicate that we have ever investigated in this region," Taylor said, referring to the DEA's Eastern California District, extending from Bakersfield to the state's northern border, excluding counties along the coast. "This is going to take months to wrap our arms around." If convicted on federal charges of growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants, the four men arrested in Stockton could face 10 years to life in prison, Taylor said. Terry Lee Tong, 24, Zhi Huo Xue, 25, Jiapei Zhou, 21, and Hong Bi Zeng, 21, were scheduled to be arraigned in San Joaquin County Superior Court this week, each on 21 counts of felony marijuana cultivation and utility theft. A conviction on those charges would have carried a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. That hearing was continued to next week before the U.S. Attorney's Office decided to prosecute the case. "We're moving forward under the concept that all 41 indoor groves are tied to the same organization with perhaps several different operating cells," Taylor said.

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