Law enforcement in the Bay Area seized more than 100,000 marijuana plants from over a dozen illicit cultivation locations last week, busting a “modern-day bootlegging” operation in a flurry of raids spanning over 48 hours. According to officers, the vast bust lead by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office across the East Bay resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars in cash and marijuana plants representing tens of millions of potential illegal cannabis sales. Ray Kelly, public information officer for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, said, “This is an organization operating outside the law and the protocols of governance of marijuana in California, unsanctioned and making millions in profits.”
Kelly revealed that the illegal grow operations, which he described as “high tech” and “very sophisticated,” were “motivated by extreme profit and greed.” He said, “It was a pure cash grab by the organizers of this enterprise.” Many suspects were arrested during the raids, although officials have not revealed the names of the individuals taken into custody.
During this 18-month investigation, over 100 sheriff’s office staff and agents with the Alameda County Narcotics Task Force were involved in an extensive reconnaissance that led to the raid, which saw search warrants served at 18 locations in East Oakland, Hayward, Castro Valley, and San Leandro. Narcotics detectives initiated the investigation with the sheriff’s department after they heard about the illicit cannabis grow operations. The raids captured around six tons of marijuana in addition to Rolexes and other jewelry.
Kelly said, “We’ve seized 12,000 pounds of processed, harvested marijuana product ready to go to sale.” At one raid location in an Oakland warehouse officers confiscated up to $10 million in cash alongside evidence of a money-laundering operation. Kelly also made a note that had these cultivators had their licenses, they could’ve avoided the police action. Although the cannabis industry is stringent on permits and regulations, it’s disheartening hearing about avoidable crimes such as this one. But on occasion, mistakes are made and not even the proper licensure is enough to prevent a raid, which is exactly what happened in Oklahoma earlier this year.