On October 10th, 2018 the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit along with the assistance of numerous state, local and federal law enforcement agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, California State Parks, Tri-County Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT), Clearlake Police Department, and Lake County District Attorney’s Office served a series of 14 search warrants on properties within the Big Valley Rancheria in Lakeport regarding illegal marijuana cultivation. The investigation led detectives to learn a Hispanic Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) was cultivating thousands of marijuana plants on tribal lands and were doing so while committing a number of environmental crimes.
Upon arrival, law enforcement personnel began conducting the service of the search warrants on Mission Way. Upon initial entry, two Hispanic male adults identified as Gilberto Figueroa, 20 of Santa Rosa and Cristian Garcia Saucedo, 22 of Clearlake fled one of the grow sites on foot towards Reeves Lane in Lakeport, but were quickly apprehended by Deputies. Also located at the Mission Way locations were Arnulfo Barragan 39 of Clearlake and Cesar Godinez 31 of Ukiah.
A second team of Law Enforcement personnel conducted simultaneous warrant services at several properties located on Mission Rancheria Road with one Hispanic male fleeing into the brush. After a search of the area, deputies located the male identified as Alexis Saucedo, 18 of Clearlake hiding in the brush near the lake. Four additional Hispanic males were located within the cultivation sites identified as Miguel Saucedo, 31 of Clearlake, Braulio Vargas Saucedo, 25 of Clearlake, Severiano Cerda, 28 of Clearlake and Fernando Rodriguez, 27 of Rockford Illinois.
Detectives learned that some residents had entered into agreements to allow the grow operations on their properties. The investigation also determined that the majority of the residents did not want the operations on their land.
A total of over 5,200 marijuana plants were located and eradicated from the 14 locations with over 500 pounds of bulk processed marijuana seized. During the search of the locations, detectives located containers of commercial insecticide being used on the marijuana plants which were being cultivated in a creek, which flows directly into Clearlake. Additionally a number of these cultivation sites were being conducted in and along the marsh of the Rumsey Slough, within the high water mark of Clearlake. The chemicals, soil products, insecticides and fertilizers being used for this activity were leaching into the soil and into the marsh threatening plant, animal and aquatic life of Clearlake. A large amount of garbage and debris associated with the cultivation were being stashed in the marsh.
A series of three additional search warrants were served later that day at residences in the 14000 block of Emory Avenue, 3800 Block of Alvita Avenue and 3600 Block of Thomas Avenue in Clearlake. While searching these locations, detectives identified another suspect, Jose Ceja-Torres, 29 of Clearlake who was also placed under arrest. Detectives located evidence tying Ceja-Torres to the operation at the Big Valley Rancheria. Furthermore, Detectives located evidence tying Ceja-Torres to a large scale marijuana cultivation investigation conducted by the Narcotics Unit on September 25th involving Pedro Landa-Alvarez and several properties located in the Lower Lake and Middletown areas.
All subjects were placed under arrest for felony marijuana cultivation violations associated with environmental crimes, felony conspiracy to commit a crime and possession of marijuana for sale. All subjects were later released after posting bail.