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Cops raid pot farm


One man was arrested and 4,470 marijuana plants were pulled yesterday from remote Forest Service land between Tuolumne and Cherry Lake.

The garden was found near Forest Service Road 2N07 east of River Ranch Campground, Tuolumne County Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Mele of the Tuolumne Narcotics Team said this morning.

The plants ranged in height from 3 to 5 feet, with a street value of $1.3 million if the plants were processed and sold, he said.

The marijuana plants were discovered yesterday by narcotics officers tipped off to the site by a private citizen, Mele said. The garden was growing about two miles from three other gardens TNT destroyed early last month. That raid netted more than 8,000 plants.

Early yesterday, Sheriff's Deputy Ken Diaz and Stanislaus Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Jim Moriarty went to the area and found the plants, which had been watered and fertilized.

While in the garden, the officers heard voices and hid. That's when two men, one carrying a shotgun, walked into the area, Mele said.

The officers identified themselves and were going to question the men, but they ran away after dropping the shotgun.

Diaz called for other law enforcement officers to help find the men and uproot the plants. While waiting for back-up officers, Diaz and Moriarty found radios and cell phones at the campsite, where it looked like three people were staying, Mele said.

As a team of officers arrived on 2N07 about noon, Mele said a man in a GMC truck was seen heading out of the area. Officers questioned the man and searched his truck and reported finding a radio and cell phone matching ones found in the camp earlier.

He was arrested.

Mele said the man identified himself as Guillermo Fernandez Garcia, 26, of Salinas. However, he carried no identification and spoke little English. An officer from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service was to come to the Tuolumne County Jail to talk to the man today.

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