A homeowner in Temecula, California reported a break in unfolding on a video surveillance camera on August 28. What Riverside County Sheriffs found when they arrived was an illegal marijuana grow house. Across the Golden State, families are often unaware of the dangers lurking next door. All too often they only learn about the illicit activity when first responders are called to the scene. This was the situation that unfolded Wednesday in the upscale community called Morgan Hill.
Families in the master-planned community with pristine lawns and distinguished schools were awaken at 3:45am when officers from the Riverside County Sheriff Department rolled in to respond to a report of a burglary. The caller said they were not at home but they were monitoring the break-in from a wireless surveillance camera on the property. The caller said there were four to five suspects inside the home wearing all black and wearing masks to cover their face.
As the result of a search warrant, approximately 700 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were located and collected. The family room, instead of furniture had rows of potted cannabis. Hanging from the ceiling was electrical wires and sunlamps to help the plants grow.
The house had extensive water damage, vandalism and other illegal modifications including an electrical supply box that was tampered with according to a press release from the sheriff’s department.
The black market of marijuana is not a victimless crime. Along with the theft of utilities, and water they attract burglars, acts of violence, including murder, kidnapping and human trafficking.
Neighbors in Morgan Hill told the California Globe that they had no idea what was going on inside the home. A mother of three children who live on the same street said, “I can’t help but think, what if those four to five masked men went into the wrong house? What if they broke into our home?”
Illegal marijuana grow houses are also not confined to a particular demographic. Those seeking to start up an operation will seek opportunity and the ability to blend into a community. Just four days earlier, the Riverside County Fire Department responded to a call regarding flooding at a home in Lake Elsinore, a less affluent community than Morgan Hill. Once on scene, the Riverside County Sheriff Department was asked to respond to the residence regarding an illegal marijuana grow. A search warrant was authored and approved for the residence, where approximately 3,000 plants were removed.
These grow houses can also be part in indentured slaves and part of international organized crime. In 2018 it was reported by various media groups that Chinese migrants were being transported to Mexico, where they made asylum claims at the border. The migrants then disappear before their scheduled immigration hearing. Often the raids of neighborhood grow houses include the discovery of immigration fugitives.
Chinese, Cuban, and Mexican transnational criminal organizations are using states like California that legalized the production and sale of marijuana to operate black markets and traffic pot to points across the U.S. The groups will purchase or rent homes where enforcement of growing operations is inconsistent.
The drug rings are known to move migrants into homes to perform the growing and harvesting operations in exchange for being smuggled into the U.S.
The grow house in Morgan Hill continues to be under investigation.