DA accuses ‘conspirators’ for underground pot farm in Newberry Springs
San Bernardino County’s chief prosecutor criminally charges nearly a dozen alleged “conspirators” for running a massive underground pot farm in a rural high desert alcove.
District Attorney Jason Anderson’s office announced late Friday that it has filed charges against 11 people “in connection with an illegal industrial-scale underground marijuana grow operation in Newberry Springs.”
Anderson will be joined Monday at 2 p.m. by County Code Enforcement Chief Igancio Nunez, Sheriff Shannon Dicus and members of Dicus’ specialized marijuana enforcement team to discuss the context of the case at a press conference at 303 W. Third St., the district attorney’s office. in San Bernardino, according to the Friday office notice.
The extent of the county’s charges are unclear, but a successful prosecution would mark perhaps the biggest tally ever in nine months of massive raids and seizures of illicit goods by the sheriff’s Operation Hammer Strike. Dicus led the launch of the operation shortly after being named sheriff amid calls for a crackdown on illegal cannabis cultivation by residents of sparsely populated and unincorporated High Desert communities such as Hinkley and Lucerne Valley. .
Newberry Springs, home to less than 3,000 residents about 20 miles east of Barstow, is another unincorporated community where some residents say illegal farms have proliferated at an exponential rate in recent years.
The newly announced charges stem from “the discovery of the largest underground marijuana grow operation in our county spanning over 14,000 square feet,” the DA notice states. It alleges that “a processing warehouse and other properties (have been) used in conjunction with the sale, manufacture and distribution of cannabis” from the Newberry Springs underground site.
At Monday’s press conference, the notice states, “DA Anderson will announce the charges against eleven defendants and the district attorney’s path to prosecution.”
As of April 24, Sheriff’s Hammer Strike teams had arrested more than 880 people during eight months of raids on hundreds of suspected illegal cannabis grows, according to a Daily Press analysis of the Sheriff’s Department revelations.
However, the vast majority of these arrests do not lead to jail bookings. Instead, they produced same-day citations and publications as required by California’s Proposition 64, which in 2016 made any illegal cultivation of cannabis a crime of any scale, unlike most states. legalized which maintained a crime status for crops exceeding about half. -a dozen plants.
Some locals and public officials say this indulgence is the reason illegal pot farms have sprung up in the growth-rich high desert. In an interview earlier this month, Sheriff Shannon Dicus said Mexican and Chinese cartels specifically fueled the trend.
The department identified 29 people arrested by Hammer Strike as residents of Newberry Springs. Many more come from places far beyond the county: at least 85 arrestees residing in Mexico, 11 residing in China and dozens from distant states like New York, Texas and Massachusetts, for example.
Charlie McGee covers California’s High Desert for The Daily Press, focusing on the town of Barstow and its surrounding communities. He is also a member of the Report for America corps with The GroundTruth Project, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the United States and around the world. McGee can be reached at 760-955-5341 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @bycharliemcgee.