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DOJ Helicopter airlifted out 500lbs ($1.7 million) of marijuana in 8,000 plant pot bust

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Published on Aug 29, 2009

From the front page of The Union Newspaper:

8,000 plants seized from pot grow

Morning commuters were treated to the sight of a Huey helicopter swooping down on a large marijuana grow worth an estimated $1.7 million, off Highway 20 and Penn Valley Drive Thursday.

The illegal grow initially had been spotted during an over-flight, said Nevada County Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Powell.

A (Drug Enforcement Administration) airplane that was passing through our county spotted it first, said Sgt. Bill Smethers. We flew over and located it a week ago, obtaining GPS coordinates.

Thursday morning, Narcotics Task Force members and DEA agents hiked in to attempt a low crawl of the garden, Smethers said. We'll sneak in on it, see if we can put anyone in the garden.

In the pre-dawn darkness, fighting through thick manzanita, the agents came within 10 feet of the grow, he said.

We could hear someone running through the brush, Smethers said. But we couldn't see him and never located him.

Powell described the site as up the hill from the intersection of Highway 20 and Penn Valley Drive, near a NID ditch that was being used for irrigation.

It's not remote, but it is kind of isolated, he said. It was pretty easily detected from the air.

At least two people fled the scene of the grow and were not apprehended, Powell said. It was believed they were Mexican nationals, based on items left at the site.

Sheriff's deputies and DEA agents found 8,000 marijuana plants and already-processed marijuana, a campsite with two processing areas, sleeping quarters and sleeping bags.

They tend and process (the marijuana) in place, Powell said, adding that illegal grows are pretty much everywhere. (Marijuana) is the biggest cash crop in the county by far, for sure. It's pretty prevalent.

The estimated net weight of the marijuana seized was about 500 pounds, with a street value of $1.7 million, Smethers said.

Due to the location and the remote area up there and the amount of plants, we got air support, he added. We were able to get a (Department of Justice) helicopter to come up and assist us.

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