UPDATE: Man sentenced in connection to massive illegal pot grow in rural Carmel Valley

Ranchers stumble upon 1300 illegal pot plants in rural Carmel Valley

CARMEL VALLEY, Calif. - UPDATE 12/18/2018 6:00 p.m.: Jose Meneses was sentenced Tuesday to 270 days in jail after having an illegal pot grow discovered to have been on Cal Am property.

The Monterey County DA's office says Meneses was sentenced for environmental crimes at the illegal grow.

Authorities found the grow site in July.

When they got there Meneses was found at the property tending to Cannabis plants.

A plastic bottle filled with carbofuran, which is illegal in the U.S. was also found.

On top of the jail sentence Meneses was sentenced to three years of felony probation, a $5,000 fine and a $5,000 contribution to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Preservation Fund.

UPDATE 7/20/2018 8:50 p.m.: A pair of brothers stumble upon a massive illegal pot grow in a rural area of Carmel Valley.

In June, San Clemente Rancho Owner/Operator Bruce Dormody was on his bulldozer, clearing some fire lines around his property down to the Carmel River. He believes that must have gotten the attention of an illegal farmer, because later that night, his brother had an unexpected visitor acting erratic. 

"He was kind out of mind, looking for Jesus and running around," Dormody recounts. "And my brother's dogs, kind of got him cornered up against a courtyard wall and he was freaking out and once he heard they called the Sheriff's (Office), he ran back into the forest where he came from."

The next day, they followed his footsteps about a mile from an airstrip on their property. That's where they found a massive pot plantation that they believe had been up and running since the Soberanes Fire in 2016.

"Phones with battery chargers, they had a full kitchen, they had full everything, it's kind of crazy," Dormody said.

He believes the farmers were hiking in from the Cachagua area to the campsite, made up of 3-4 tents.

While he and his brother discovered the grow, it actually happened on property owned by Cal Am. Representatives there told KION it happened on the edge of their property, not near any of their equipment, thus not posing a public safety hazard.

After the discovery, Dormody got in touch with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, who conducted a major operation in early July. 1,300 young plants were destroyed and a lot of evidence was discovered. 

"They started collecting miles of plastic irrigation line, I think there's a half a dozen propane canisters and four different campsites," Dormody said.

They believe the farmers diverted water from a nearby source to the farm, burying irrigation drip lines underground. 

Jose Meneses was arrested at the scene after initially trying to run from authorities. 

"He's charged with unlawful cultivation, he's charged with possessing and using pesticides for non-intended use, he's charged with resisting arrest and he's also charged with trespass among some other environmental crimes," said Monterey County Assistant District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni. 

Dormody didn't think illegal grows were still happening because of legalization as well as the Soberanes Fire burning through the area. 

"About every 5 or 10 years we see something like this," Dormody said." But this is by far the largest, most sophisticated operation with the miles of drip irrigation lines and bubblers and individual potted plants, it was pretty amazing."

Yet the Monterey County District Attorney's Office recently conducted enforcement efforts targeting outdoor commercial grows, considered illegal right now. Investigators served six search warrants on six properties and investigated two cases where illegal farmers were trespassing. 

"We recovered and destroyed over 10,000 pounds of black market cannabis," Pacioni said. "The value of that cannabis, if sold by the pound is $17 million worth of illegal cannabis. If it were sold in a dispensary, it would be over $20 million, so we feel that our enforcement was pretty productive for that six week period of time."

ORIGINAL POST: Brothers stumbled upon a massive illegal pot grow in rural Carmel Valley. 

Bruce Dormody and his brothers run the San Clemente Rancho cabins and told KION they were building a fire break on their property back in June. Later that evening, a man went to one of their homes saying he saw Jesus.  The Monterey County Sheriff''s Office was called but the man ran into the woods. 

During the course of the next week, the brothers followed the man's footsteps which led them to acres of young marijuana plants. 

The Department of Fish and Wildlife responded earlier this month. In an early morning operation, a team surrounded a campsite and arrested Jose Meneses.

Once the scene was secure the eradication team was flown in to destroy the 1,300 plants in the area. 

On July 7, Dormody posted to Facebook saying, "We had a successful day yesterday, one arrest, 1,300 plants destroyed, site cleaned up, and no one hurt."

Dormody said the team also found more than a mile of irrigation drip line and boxes of ammunition.

KION's Mariana Hicks will have more at 5 and 6 p.m. 


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