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Cartel-Operated Marijuana Grows Taken Down In Antelope Valley As Part Of ‘Massive’ Joint Operation

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Antelope Valley Marijuana Bust 1
Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Hundreds of large-scale marijuana grow sites, operated by drug cartels, were taken down in the Antelope Valley on Tuesday as part of one of the largest operational raids in Los Angeles County history.

In 2020, there were an estimated 150 illegal cannabis operations in the High Desert, growing to over 500 in 2021, according to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

“There were some people very, very busy during the pandemic,” Villanueva said.

After receiving numerous complaints from residents, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department took action, partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as several local law enforcement agencies.

Cartel members were threatening residents and stealing millions of gallons of water from the already limited supply in the desert, according to the sheriff.

“Today, we have spoken with farmers, with residents. Armed cartel members up here in the High Desert stealing water in the middle of the night has been a common sight,” Villanueva said. “This is one of those existential threats L.A. County is facing, so we had to think big.”

On Tuesday, over 400 personnel in the joint operation served dozens of search warrants at 200 locations across the High Desert.

The sheriff said the operation is not going to stop “until there is not a single marijuana grow out here.”

At least 23 people have been arrested and multiple firearms have been seized as part of the joint raid. Villanueva said the amount of cannabis taken down is being measured in the tons, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.

The number of greenhouses at each grow varied from eight to 15. The largest site, which is believed to be the largest illegal cannabis operation in L.A. County, had 74 grow tents spanning over 10 acres.

Law enforcement officials say the grows to pollute the environment, with chemicals leaching into the groundwater and trash being blown throughout the desert.

There has also been an increase in violence in connection to the operations, including two murders, according to Villanueva.

“Violent crime is part of the trade for the cartels and has been associated with these grows,” he said. “It was our obligation to put a stop to this.”

In March 2021, deputies discovered a body in the Lake Los Angeles area, found to be connected to the illegal drug trade.

A month later, an attempted robbery of a grow operation resulted in a shootout with one person dead.

“We are going to send a loud and clear message to all the cartels and the illegal operations, your days are over here and you need to pack up and leave, or we will find you,” Villanueva said.

Congressman Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, joined members of law enforcement at a press conference to applaud the operation.

Garcia said the illegal operations stem from a lack of security at the southern border, which is now impacting the Antelope Valley.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger is expected to further address the illegal operations, with a motion later this month aimed at tackling the growing problem.

In the coming weeks, law enforcement agencies plan on several other raids in the Antelope Valley, intending to eradicate all 500 illegal cannabis grow sites.

Note: This story has been updated with additional information from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Crime

Burbank Police Seeking Additional Victims Of Scammer

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Burbank Police Crime

The Burbank Police Department (BPD) detectives are seeking additional possible victims of a suspect who scammed multiple bank customers.

On May 24, a victim came to the BPD to report a check fraud scam who had been approached by the suspect in the Logix Federal Credit Union parking lot on Hollywood Way, according to Sgt. Emil Brimway, spokesperson for the department.

The suspect, Gevorg Adoyan, 29, of North Hollywood, explained he had reached his cash-out limit and asked the victim to negotiate a check for him so that he could gamble at a casino.

Adoyan offered the victim a percentage of the check-in exchange for his assistance.

The victim agreed to complete the transaction and deposited the check into his account. The victim then withdrew cash from his account and gave it to the suspect. The negotiated check was later returned as fraudulent.

Through their investigation, detectives learned of 11 additional victims who were scammed by the same suspect at the same location.

A search warrant was executed at Adoyan’s residence where detectives recovered additional fraudulent checks, according to Brimway.

Adoyan was arrested and booked for forgery and grand theft, according to investigators.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed 12 counts of theft by false pretenses against Adoyan and was he was arraigned on July 14.

Detectives believe Adoyan may have scammed additional victims. The BPD is asking any additional victims or anyone with information about these incidents to contact the Burbank Police Department Investigations Division at (818) 238-3210.

The suspect, Gevorg Adoyan, who was arrested for allegedly scamming victims outside a Burbank credit union. Photo Courtesy of the BPD.
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Crime

Woman Killed After Van Nuys Stabbing, Suspect Arrested

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Crime LAPD Slider

A woman was killed after a Van Nuys stabbing Wednesday morning with one suspect taken into custody.

Just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, officers responded to the 17300 block of Matilija Avenue in Van Nuys for the report of a possible homicide according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

When officers arrived, they were directed to a nearby house on the 13800 block of Valerio Street, where a body with multiple stab wounds, according to detectives.

The victim, identified as 53-year-old Ana Guardado, was declared dead at the scene, police said. 

After further investigation, detectives arrested Jose Sierra, 49, for murder, according to the LAPD.

As of Wednesday, the motive of the incident is unknown, according to investigators.

Sierra was booked at Van Nuys Jail with a $2,000,000 bail.     

Anyone with additional information is asked to call Valley Bureau Homicide Division, Detectives R. Secor or S. Kim at (213) 216-0171.

Those wishing to remain anonymous should call the L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or go directly here.

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Crime

Over $1 Billion In Marijuana Plants Seized In Antelope Valley Drug Bust

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Antelope Valley Marijuana Bust 1
Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Over $1 billion of marijuana was seized in an Antelope Valley drug bust last month — the largest illegal cannabis enforcement operation in Los Angeles County history.

The joint operation on June 8 resulted in a total of approximately 373,000 plants and 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana, worth an estimated street value of $1.193 billion, according to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to the cartels and anyone doing illegal operations in the High Desert, your days are over and we’re coming for you,” Villanueva said Tuesday.

In 2020, there were an estimated 150 illegal cannabis operations in the Antelope Valley, growing to over 500 in 2021, a majority of which are connected to drug cartels, according to the sheriff.

After receiving numerous complaints from residents, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department took action, partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as several local law enforcement agencies.

Cartel members were threatening residents and stealing millions of gallons of water from the already limited supply in the desert, according to Villanueva.

Last month, over 400 personnel in the joint operation served dozens of search warrants at 200 locations across the High Desert.

At the end of the 10-day operation, a total of 131 people were arrested. In addition, 33 firearms $20,000 in cash and several vehicles were seized. 

The number of greenhouses at each grow varied from eight to 15. The largest site, which is believed to be the largest illegal cannabis operation in L.A. County, had 74 grow tents spanning over 10 acres.

Chloe Hakim, an environmental scientist for Fish and Wildlife, said illegal pesticides and fertilizers have seeped into streams and groundwater in the area. 

Two bears were found dead in the area of the grows, which law enforcement officials attribute to the use of the pesticides. 

See Related: Cartel-Operated Marijuana Grows Taken Down In Antelope Valley As Part Of ‘Massive’ Joint Operation

There has also been an increase in violence in connection to the operations, including two murders, according to Villanueva.

“Violent crime is part of the trade for the cartels and has been associated with these grows,” he said. “It was our obligation to put a stop to this.”

Congressman Mike Garcia surveyed the grows from a helicopter a month before the bust, and hosted a town hall with community members from Pearblossom. 

“The testimonies that we heard from those local residents were absolutely tragic. They were threatened on a daily basis from cartel members and bad actors,” Garcia said.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger is working toward policies to eradicate the illegal operations, that are “plaguing the Antelope Valley and has the potential to spread throughout Los Angeles County.”

“What began as water theft, has exploited to become the infiltration of organized crime groups in the Antelope Valley who are operating internationally,” Barger said.

The supervisor has authored several motions to increase enforcement efforts on both illegal grows and unlicensed cannabis dispensaries. 

Villanueva said operations are going to continue in the coming months, to further ensure the eradication of illegal cannabis grows in the Antelope Valley. 

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