Monterey County

Deputies bust illegal pot grow in Carmel Valley

Soberanes Fire leads to pot grow discoveries

CARMEL VALLEY, Calif. - UPDATE 9/8/2016 5:45 PM:

The Monterey County Sheriff's Office said it destroyed more than 1,200 marijuana plants in a raid off Carmel Valley Road on Wednesday.

Deputies, along with California Fish and Wildlife officers and members of the California National Guard Anti-Drug Task Force, were looking into reports of men matching the description of illegal marijuana growers carrying supplies and trespassing in the Los Padres National Forest, authorities said.

The group followed the trail and discovered the grow on less than an acre of land. There were 1,227 plants, dangerous chemicals and a 54-year-old man armed with a TEC-9, a rapid-fire handgun. They say the suspect, Leopoldo Herrera Moreno tried running, until K-9 Officer Spur tackled him.

The tips came in from people who had either seen the men or captured them on surveillance.

"Trying to monitor who's coming in, who's going, who can we see, what the times are, just try to do some types of surveillance," said Monterey County Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Matt Luther.

During a typical year, authorities find between 12 and 15 gardens. Since the Soberanes Fire started on July 22, authorities say there have been six cases of reported grows or gardeners.

Some of the most high-profile cases include a group of men who originally claimed to be hikers. They were found near Bottcher's Gap. Their grow was destroyed.

On Aug. 18, more than 17,000 plants and 1,000 pounds of processed marijuana were discovered and destroyed.

"It's times like these where you have people out there fighting a fire, and you'll have air support and they'll look down and say, 'Obviously that's a marijuana grow.' They'll tell us about it and we'll go back and look at it," Luther said.

Authorities believe this recent case could be related to another incident that happened a month ago, when fire crews came across what they believe was a grow with three men. Concerned over their safety, fire crews left.

"The protocol is for them to notify their immediate supervisor, the supervisor contacts operations and we disengage from the area," Tim Evans, a fire information officer, said. "Operations then contacts law enforcement. It becomes a law enforcement matter."

Authorities found the trio after six hours of searching. They were detained but later released because authorities couldn't connect them to a crime.

Moreno now faces a handful of charges, including cultivation of marijuana, possession of a gun with a high capacity magazine and dumping hazardous waste.


The Monterey County Sheriff's Office said its investigating an illegal marijuana grow found Wednesday on Carmel Valley Road.

Deputies said Leopoldo Herrera Moreno, 54, was arrested after trying to run. He was eventually caught by a K9. Investigators said Moreno was armed.

According to the sheriff's office, people living near the grow put up cameras in the area after growing suspicions about illegal activity.

KION's Mariana Hicks will have more on this story tonight.

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