Valley West Grow House Raided – March 4, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA – On Thursday, March 2, officers from the Arcata Police Department’s Special Services Unit, assisted by the Humboldt County Drug Task Force, served a search warrant at 1200 Devlin Court, located in a residential neighborhood in the Valley West area of Arcata. The search warrant was served in response to neighborhood complaints regarding a residence where an illegal marijuana cultivation operation was suspected.

According to an APD press release, a “highly sophisticated” indoor marijuana cultivation and processing operation was discovered. Officers seized nearly 350 marijuana plants, an illegal semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle and more than $12,000 in cash.

An AR-15 like the one seized at the Devlin Court house.

Michael Meyer, 21, of Arcata was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Jail on charges of possession of marijuana for sale, operating a house for the manufacture of drugs and cultivation of marijuana.

Rex Allen Baker, 58, of Arcata was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Jail on charges of possession of marijuana for sale, operating a house for the manufacture of drugs, possession of dangerous drugs, cultivation of marijuana and possession of a prohibited firearm.

Jonathan Baker, 21, of Arcata was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Jail on charges of possession of marijuana for sale, conspiracy and resisting arrest.

City of Arcata building inspectors discovered numerous building code violations at the residence, necessitating the immediate disconnection of electrical service.

This grow bust, like so many before it, was based on “a number of” complaints from neighbors, according to APD Det. Sgt. Todd Dokweiler. Based on the initial complaints, Valley West Officer Brian Hoffman initiated the investigation.

Dokweiler said all three suspects had moved to Arcata from Wisconsin in December and “went into business” right away with the conversion of a family home in a residential neighborhood into a cannabis factory.

Other than the grow operation, Dokweiler said, “none of them were employed in any capacity.” An economic investigation of suspected growers is often conducted to help secure a search warrant.

Dokweiler described the grow equipment “all brand-new, top-of-the-line and professionally installed.” He estimated the cost of the installation at $30,000, with receipts observed at the location.

Ironically, the elaborate anti-detection measures led to the grow’s discovery and downfall.

After the new tenants moved in, a steady procession of contractor trucks – electricians, plumbers and carpenters – were seen coming and going from the house. Heavy electrical wire was snaked around the outside of the structure, rather than in the interior as with a normal installation.

Modifications to the house included addition of drywall to create false walls intended to isolate the grow and make it more difficult to detect. A “room within a room” had been created, with 14-inch diameter ducting venting the air through a water heater-sized carbon filter. The exhaust was fed into the attic space for discharge through the vents in the gabled roof.

No building permits had been obtained for any of the house modifications, which is something the contractors would have known.

Even more blatant were the hydroponic store trucks delivering grow equipment in plain view of neighbors. Further, Dokweiler said, the high-priced countermeasures didn’t succeed in obscuring the cultivation from neighbors.  “They’re still smelling [cannabis] and hearing the fans run, despite all the precautions,” he said.

Dokweiler said along with the AR-15, an assault rifle used by the military, high-capacity clips and “in excess of” 500 rounds of ammunition were on hand.

The Devlin Court house is owned by Francisco and Lenda Leal of McKinleyville. Reached by phone Friday after noon, Lenda was said she was unaware of the police raid on her property.

“Wonderful,” she said on hearing the news. “I need to call my attorney. I have no clue what’s going on, so no comment.”

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