General Crime

Task Force Arrest Two Men In Largest Marijuana Seizure In Santa Cruz County

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In the largest-ever indoor marijuana growing operation seized in Santa Cruz County, a county task force on Tuesday arrested two men after finding 3,600 marijuana plants and 120 pounds of the drug at a former mushroom farm in Watsonville, a police sergeant said. The Santa Cruz County Anti Crime Team, made up of county and city law enforcement officers, used a search warrant to enter a business called Ariel Mushrooms at 20 Heckler Pass Road at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, Watsonville police Sgt. Eric Montalbo said.

Team agents soon found six indoor grow rooms previously used by a mushroom farm, which had been closed for several years and converted to raise marijuana. Authorities detained three men at the site, Montalbo said. The grow rooms contained 3,600 live marijuana plants, 120 pounds of processed marijuana buds intended for future sales and growing equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars, Montalbo said. Cecil Doug Tanner, 67, and Mark Boutwell, 63, were arrested on charges of marijuana cultivation and possession for sales of the drug, while a third man, Charles Lettunich, was released pending charges to be requested thorough the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office, Montalbo said.

The agents then executed search warrants at Tanner’s home at 70 Magnolia Drive in Watsonville, his business, Tanner Development Inc., at 930 Freedom Blvd. in Watsonville, and Boutwell’s home at 24730 Foothill Drive in Salinas, Montalbo said. Evidence recovered by agents included 10 pounds of processed marijuana at Boutwell’s home and documents showing Tanner had paid $100,000 in bills to PG&E to support the pot farm for the last two years, Montalbo said. The wholesale value of the marijuana seized was about $220,000 and the yield of the crop had a value of between $800,000 and $1 million, Montalbo said. It was the largest indoor marijuana business ever seized in Santa Cruz County, Montalbo said.

The seizure was the result of an eight-month investigation into a possible commercial marijuana growing operation at the site, Montalbo said. Members of the team that took part in the bust included officers from the Santa Cruz County Auto Theft Task Force, the Watsonville Police Department investigations unit, the Monterey County Narcotics Task Force and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigations unit, Montalbo said.

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