GOLETA — Narcotics officials discovered greenhouse facilities housing more than 10,000 marijuana plants with a street value in excess of $40 million during an early-morning raid Thursday, ranking it as the largest such seizure in the county’s history.
“I’ve been on more eradications than I can count, and this is by far the most elaborate indoor and greenhouse marijuana operation I’ve ever seen,” said Lt. Sonny LeGault of the illicit operation housed inside the Dos Pueblos Orchid Company.
LeGault has spent the past year actively involved in the county’s marijuana eradication efforts with the sheriff’s Narcotics Unit. He estimated the seizure involved between 10,000 and 20,000 plants with a street value upwards of $80 million, but indicated that a final count would not be complete for another 24 hours. In addition to the growing plants, several hundred pounds of processed marijuana with a street value of more than $1 million were seized.
As detectives surrounded the flower company’s property, John Dobson, 57, and Kelvin Kelley, 62, were apprehended as they attempted to flee the premises.
The raid was carried out at daybreak on Thursday, Aug. 12 by more than two dozen narcotics unit personnel, including the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office’s evidence unit photographer and videographer, who documented the extensive evidence found throughout the site.
According to sheriff’s spokesman Drew Sugars, the greenhouses are leased out, but the landlords had no knowledge of the criminal activity being conducted on their property. Sugars indicated that the greenhouse facilities include indoor growing racks complete with lights, fans, heaters, drying rooms, processing and packaging equipment, and had been “completely converted into a full-scale marijuana factory.”
The indoor growing areas, occupying nine separate greenhouses on the 50-acre property just north of Goleta, were equipped with technologically sophisticated heating and ventilation systems to allow for year-round cultivation and harvesting.
Dobson was arrested and booked into county jail on suspicion of felony possession of marijuana for sale and felony cultivation of marijuana. Kelley was booked on the same charges, as well as for resisting arrest. Both suspects are currently held on $30,000 bail.
Sugars said Thursday’s seizures, coming after the previous week’s seizure of another 91,000 marijuana plants in the nearby foothills, concludes a high-intensity Narcotics Unit effort for the week, but that “there is probably more out there with more arrests still to come.”