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$5.6 million in illegal drugs seized

1,600 marijuana plants found in Placer County
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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About $5.6 million in illegal drugs were seized in several Northern California counties including Placer Wednesday afternoon. Officials from the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement collected about 3,300 marijuana plants worth $5.5 million, three pounds of crystal methamphetamine worth $66,000, 60 pounds of marijuana worth $102,000, one shotgun and two handguns, according to Michelle Gregory, press information officer for the state bureau of narcotics enforcement. Officials also arrested 21 suspects. The seizure included 1,600 marijuana plants found in a grow site in Placer County at the Lake Clementine State Park along Foresthill Road. Officials arrested one person who was tending to the garden at the time of Lake Clementine seizure. Another suspect fled and is still sought by law enforcement. No description could be provided, Gregory said. The remaining drugs were taken from sites in surrounding counties including El Dorado, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Stanislaus. Along with obtaining the crystal methamphetamine, officials were able to arrest who they believe is the drug organization’s ring leader and the organization’s broker, Gregory said. Hubert Ramirez, 24, is the suspected leader. Samuel Mondragon is the suspected broker. Both were arrested in Elk Grove Wednesday, Gregory said. Gregory added that officials cannot confirm the ages of all 21 suspects arrested but estimate that they are all in their 20s. Officials have determined so far that all 21 suspects are illegal aliens. Gregory confirmed that officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are involved as well as 14 other agencies from local, state and federal levels. The investigation began in March when the bureau received information about a drug trafficking organization involved in marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine. An undercover agent was able to infiltrate the drug organization and collect evidence, Gregory said. “It’s one of the first cases we have had an undercover agent get into the organizations that way and earn their trust and get that information for us so we could go forth with the investigation,” Gregory said. The large-scale seizure was the result of a multi-agency effort involving 15 agencies from the local, state and federal levels, Gregory said. The 10- to 15–person Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation team was the taskforce that led the investigation and subsequent drug seizure. Gregory said it is one of three teams in the state with the responsibility of locating and eradicating marijuana growth operated by drug trafficking organizations. The task force is comprised of individuals from the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, California Department of Justice, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Gregory said the seizure was a large success for all agencies involved. “We believe we’ve got most of the main players in the organization, which hopefully puts a dent in their overall organization and should dismantle that one at least,” Gregory said. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.