KFI News Exclusive: LA County Sheriff’s Department Huge Pot Farm Bust


Exclusive Drone Footage of the Pot Farm

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Preflight Check

Photo: Jacob Gonzalez

Photo: Steve Greogry, KFI News

5AM Briefing at Church in Lancaster

Photo: Steve Gregory

Marijuana Greenhouses

Photo: Steve Gregory

Photo: Steve Gregory

Photo: Steve Gregory

Tank Filled with Stolen Water

Photo: Steve Gregory

Living Quarters

Photo: Steve Gregory

Sheriff with Congressman Mike Garcia

Photo: Steve Gregory

Living Quarters

Photo: Steve Gregory

Sheriff Villanueva

Photo: Steve Gregory

Bulldozing the Pot Farm

Photo: Steve Gregory

Bulldozed Crop

Photo: Steve Gregory

Hoisting Bundles of Marijuana

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Photo Credit: Steve Gregory via KFI Drone #1

The LA County Sheriff’s Department says it’s pulled off the largest series of pot farm busts in the United States

"Morning, everyone How y'all doing? Good. Wow, this is a big crowd."

The op started yesterday at 5 am with a briefing by Sheriff Villanueva, and there were so many people involved, they had to use a church north of Lancaster to accommodate more than 400 deputies, soldiers, and federal agents.

"And I want to say this is going to be one of those moments in time where one word engaging in the largest operation the Sheriff's Department has ever done. And this is going to dwarf all other operations."

Villanueva says he first started talking about this problem more than a year ago, he spoke to Holly Francisco who oversees the Narcotics Bureau, she and her team worked to put this all together.

"We were starting to get the reports from the community members, most importantly, kids who cannot play their athletic events in those fields, because it just the odor was just destroying the entire thing. They had to just work out indoors. Farmers, alfalfa farmers, in the middle of the night, being 211'd at gunpoint for water. Who would ever thought that would be a hazard as a farmer. That's how bad the situation got. People in the night being confronted by armed people carrying or driving truckloads of weed."

Villanueva used his last few moments for a pep talk.

"At the end of the day, let's have where no one got hurt, we get all the bad guys that need to be put in jail in jail, we rescued people that need to be rescued, and let's just obliterate the hell out of all this s***. Okay, so, again, thank you all. Let's get it done."

This time we head to the command post about 13 miles or so away, it's usually pretty close to the main operation. When we arrived, various teams are already getting their assignments and last-minute instructions.

"All the teams have already been briefed by us and individually about your individual operations."

At this point, it's a lot of "hurry up and wait," and while we were the only radio station invited to attend, we still had to wait for the all-clear before we could move in. We were told by members of the narcotics team these illegal pot grows are sometimes booby-trapped to prevent theft and sometimes those traps go off. And while we're safely waiting in the command post, some miles away a team is already making entry onto the property of a massive pot farm.

"Sherrif's Department search warrant. LA County Sheriff's Department search warrant, command entry. Again. LA County Sheriff's Department search warrant. Go ahead and check it."

Back at the command post, we get the word that we're up, we follow a convoy of SUVs for about another 20 minutes or so, we pull into a large dirt lot and when we get out the stench of marijuana hits us like a wall. The wind is strong and the smell even stronger. The Sheriff gets out of his SUV and he's met by Francisco who brings over an undercover operative. He walks us through their entry and what they found. For safety and security reasons, we're not going to ID him.

"We've got plants in various stages of growth, budded plants, some immature plants, there's a few greenhouses that were harvested. Upon arrival, as the entry team drove in, there were about three people that ran from the location and fled, our airship was overhead and was able to maintain a visual on them. Once we cleared the greenhouses and detained several people that were inside, we redirected our focus and sent our containment units with the airship to detain the folks that were that ran from the greenhouse. This is one of the largest grows that we've seen this year in our county. I don't believe that we've ever actually been to a grow larger than this in the last several years."

Next we walk into the living quarters, a four-sided plywood structure with a corrugated metal roof. Inside a camping tent with two cots next to a small recreational trailer. The area is filthy and cluttered.

"Unreal, this is what anarchy looks like... you make your own rules."

By now some backhoes, bulldozers, and trucks have arrived. They've been ordered to tear down and destroy all the plants in greenhouses. As the Sheriff prepares to go to the next location, he turns to me with some final thoughts.

"And we're going to send a loud and clear message to all the cartels and illegal operations. Your days are over here. And you need to pack up and leave. Or we're going to find you."

From an undisclosed location in northern LA County with producer Jacob Gonzalez, for Wake Up Call, I'm Steve Gregory, KFI News.