Police raided an alleged grow house next to an elementary school in Manteca in March.
Officers served a search warrant on the house, located less than 150 feet from Stella Brockman Elementary School, on March 19, said Manteca Police Lt. Tony Souza. They left with more than 300 marijuana plants and a pound of dried plant from the home.
An investigation determined the owners had hijacked more than $20,000 worth of electricity by illegally bypassing the home’s power meter. The extra juice was used to power grow lights and an air filtration system designed to mask the smell of weed.
Souza said that’s in line with today’s illegal cultivation houses, which involve not only highly complex grow equipment but ever more elaborate deceptions to fool neighbors and police.
Such houses are not just illicit but can pose a threat to neighbors. The use of jury-rigged electrical equipment like that in the Manteca house is especially dangerous, Souza said.
“There was definitely a potential for a fire hazard that could have jeopardized that house and other houses in the area,” he said. “There’s an extremely high yield on those plants when it comes to money because they have multiple grow seasons in a single year when they’re indoors.”
What really concerned police, though, was the home’s proximity to the elementary school. Under California’s medical marijuana law, cannabis facilities must be located at least 600 feet from any school.
“That was alarming,” Souza said.
Two of the house’s occupants were arrested. Trieu Vo, 27, and Vinny Tran, 38, both of San Jose, were charged with marijuana cultivation, possession of marijuana for sale, keeping a place to sell controlled substances, utility theft, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Police also searched Vo’s residence in San Jose and confiscated six pounds of marijuana they said was packaged and ready for sale. Officers put the value of the weed and the growing equipment at between $350,000 and $500,000, not counting the cost of the house.
As of March 21, both men were being held at the San Joaquin County Jail. Bail was set at $250,000 for each.