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Contraband
07/23/2013

Massive illegal marijuana grow operation uncovered in northern California

Massive illegal marijuana grow operation uncovered in northern California
Massive illegal marijuana grow operation uncovered in northern California
Massive illegal marijuana grow operation uncovered in northern California

FRENCH CAMP, Calif. – Two men and a woman are in custody facing state charges following the discovery Monday of a massive illegal marijuana cultivation operation in this small community south of Stockton.

Investigators with the San Joaquin County Metro Narcotics Task Force initially located the grow Monday morning in a large field about a mile from a local sheriff’s station. The nearly 16,000 marijuana plants, valued at more than $30 million, were intermingled with stalks of corn in an effort to conceal them.

Following the discovery, the task force sought assistance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the case. Tuesday, HSI special agents joined members of the task force in a search of the field.

"As this discovery underscores, the individuals and organizations involved in the illegal cultivation of marijuana are becoming increasingly brazen, operating practically on law enforcement’s doorstep," said Ray Greenlee, assistant special agent in charge of HSI San Francisco. "This case shows yet again why federal and local collaboration is crucial to combatting what amounts to a significant public safety threat and ensuring that those involved are brought to justice."

"This is a substantial and sophisticated growing operation that was hidden quite well from detection," said Capt. Chris Pehl, who heads the Metro Narcotics Task Force. "We are extremely grateful for the assistance from our law enforcement partners (HSI) with this investigation."

Three individuals have been arrested on state charges for their suspected involvement in the grow operation. Duangchai Pradabseng, 50, of Fresno; Tim Sang Chanthala, 45, of Stockton; and Nom Chanthala, 47, of Stockton; have been booked into the San Joaquin County Jail on state charges.

The investigation into the illegal marijuana cultivation operation is ongoing.