At least 5,000 marijuana plants discovered during raid

LOS OSOS, Calif. - More than 5,000 marijuana plants were found Tuesday at a private ranch in a rugged mountainous area, and two people at the scene during the 7 a.m. raid were arrested.

The seized plants may have had a street value as high as $15 million, said Sgt. Sean Donahue of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department.

Grown with use of a sophisticated watering system, the marijuana plants up to eight feet high were found in an area of steep terrain surrounded by thick chapparal, Donahue said. The property's owner was not a suspect, sheriff's narcotics detectives said.

Francisco Garcia, 44, of Santa Maria, and Octovio Mendoza, 52, a resident of Mexico, were arrested on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Bail for each man was set at $50,000.

Mendoza initially resisted arrest and was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly aiming a 9-mm gun at deputies in a threatening manner, said Sheriff's Lt. Steve Bolts. No shots were fired, Bolts said.

The department received a tip regarding the plantation off Clark Valley Road, but the initial tip indicated the marijuana farm was smaller - only about 1,000 plants, Donahue said.

Investigators believed the marijuana growing operation might be related to a similar raid made last year at Los Padres National Forest, in which another 5,000 plants were seized.


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