[Update 9:30 with Photos] Convoy Yesterday Raided Three Properties in the Rancho Sequoia Area

Humboldt County Sheriff MarijuanaInformation from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department on yesterday’s raid in Rancho Sequoia:

On May 22, Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant on three properties in the Rancho Sequoia area for the illegal cultivation of marijuana. Deputies were assisted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens and environmental scientists, officials with the State Water Board, CAL FIRE, Humboldt County Code Enforcement and Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services HazMat Division.

Deputies arrested one person in connection with these properties, 37-year-old Hector Merdrano Escalante of Redway.

While serving the warrant, deputies located eight green houses and eradicated 10,609 marijuana plants. These properties did not have permits to cultivate marijuana.

Merdrano Escalante was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on the following charges: felony unauthorized cultivation of marijuana, felony conspiracy to commit a crime, misdemeanor streambed alteration without a permit and misdemeanor depositing hazardous material in or near a waterway. Merdrano Escalante posted bail of $25,000.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists found several violations on the property, as well as Code Enforcement and the State Water Board…

Fish and Wildlife teams may be out there today doing follow up, however we do not have another search warrant in the area today.

UPDATE 9:30 a.m.: Here’s the official press release which gives more information. The information has not been proven in a court of law and any individuals described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty:

Hector Merdrano EscalanteOn Tuesday, May 22, 2018, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) served two search warrants to investigate the illegal cultivation of marijuana in the area of Rancho Sequoia Drive near Alderpoint. The following agencies assisted the DEU: Wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, CAL Fire law enforcement officers and personnel, specialists from the Humboldt County Environmental Health and HAZMAT Unit, Humboldt County Code Enforcement officers and personnel from the State Water Board.
Three parcels were investigated during the service of the search warrants. Two of the parcels did not possess a commercial cannabis permit with the County of Humboldt and the third parcel’s commercial cannabis application had been withdrawn. The DEU located eight greenhouses during the service of the search warrants. Six of the greenhouses contained grow lights that would enable the greenhouses to cultivate marijuana year-round. Eight subjects were detained during this investigation. Hector Merdrano Escalante, 37, of Redway, was arrested for felony cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy to commit a crime, streambed alteration without a permit and depositing hazardous material in or near a waterway. In total, the DEU located and eradicated 10,609 growing marijuana plants.
CDFW biologists located the following environmental violations during their investigation:
 Four sediment delivery water pollution violations
 One deposition of trash into a stream violation
 One stream alteration violation
 One water diversion violation
Humboldt County Code Enforcement officers located the following violations during their investigation:
 Grading without a permit
 Building without a permit
 Commercial marijuana ordinance violations
 Development in a streamside management area without a permit
 Unapproved sewage disposal system
 Improper storage and removal of solid waste
Generator grow mess 2018The HAZMAT Unit located the following violations during their investigation:
 Failure to file a HAZMAT business plan
 No spill prevention countermeasures and control plan
 No secondary containment measures
 Failure to prevent the release of hazardous material
 Discharging hazardous waste to soil
 No lids or labels on hazardous waste containers
 Unauthorized hazardous waste storage
 Mismanagement of lead/acid batteries
 No EPA ID numbers
greenhouse marijuanaHAZMAT personnel located 1,900 gallons of diesel fuel and 220 gallons of waste oil stored on one of the parcels.
State Water Board personnel located the following violations during their investigation:
 Excavation of a watercourse
 No regional board report regarding discharge
 Discharge without regional board report
 Multiple basin plan violations
Multiple greenhousesAll criminal violations stemming from the marijuana cultivation investigation will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s office for review. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office maintains a cooperative relationship with all agencies that participated in this investigation. All future investigations into non-compliant marijuana operations will continue to be investigated in this manner.
Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.

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92 comments

  • 25k bail lol

  • 3 properties out of hundreds. Sure- levy a bunch of fines. The owners will step away and the county will confiscate the property and then at auction nobody will ever buy it because it will have an expensive, required clean-up attached. It will be lost to the county tax base. How many of these can they do? Meanwhile the people who did it are released, charged with very small offenses ….I think the new arrangement actually encourages MORE illegal growing. There- I said it out loud.

    • I don’t get why this would cause more illegal grows. I think this looks like enforcing the law against ugly messy light polluting grow scenes. I think it’s great.. if this keeps up it will equal out the risk /reward equation for growing which will thin the herds out there. For too long it’s been too much reward for very little risk. I hope they go after the actual owner of the property, which is public record, because this guy was definitely not the mastermind.
      I hope more neighborhoods get together and keep this kind of shit out of our county. It is the kind of things that bring heat to our whole county.

      • You do not understand the logic of a criminal mind. Civil fines attached to something you don’t care about. No fine attached to you. Only a very small percent get popped. Every one that does get popped stabilizes the price. With track n trace and now these busts we may be seeing an uptick in the underground market price? Anyways why not try- the infrastructure is already in place. The game is on for 2018. And we all know these early busts are simply emptying their budget. There will be little to no activity this summer….Also we will see a return to diesel underground grows and blow-ups on logging land. The people running the programs do not understand the criminal strategies even though they’ve had 40 years to figure it out. You think these guys care if you put a $100,000 fine on the land?! They will walk away and use another piece….or go guerrilla on that same piece! It’s ludicrous.

        • If someone pays for a property they are invested. 10k is not much to pay off if you are making say 160k a season and that’s very conservative. I know people who got these fines and the county DID NOT prevent them from harvesting or selling their weed. As long as they paid the fine they were free to carry on.
          So why are you thinking these owners are going to walk away from a property because of a 10k or 30k fine? Has it happened yet? Not that I’ve heard of. My neighborhood is quite a bit quieter this year because people are worried about these letters.
          I actually think that this technique is pretty effective. It costs the county very little and actually is bringing in a lot of money to the coffers.
          It’s going to bring the risk/reward ratio a little more into line. The smart people will do well. Remember, the demand for black market product is not affected by these moves, only the supply. So it could be good for the market, and bring it more in line to where it used to be.

          • It’s going to be a minute before the market settles down. The county and now the state, has given a green light for another year of black market, especially if you have a permit. No track and trace in place with the state. No rush for people to get track and trace in Humboldt. Basically, right now, if you have an interim permit, you can go as big as you want with zero fear of anything happening to you. Its almost like the county is protecting people.

            • It is EXACTLY like the county is taking part in a conspiracy to produce thousands of pounds of weed that it knows will be distributed across state lines. RICO Act and Federal Conspiracy to Manufacture and Distribute charges should be leveled against all Supervisors and Planning Department heads.

    • I have a real estate app and I’ve noticed a lot of property listed as vacant.
      I’m not sure if they are seized by the feds or behind in property taxes.

    • Veteran's friend

      You are so right…

  • Is Hector a local ?

  • Anonymous Humboldtian

    I could care less that they’re growing, but what a bunch of slobs. Piles of trash heaped up instead of using your money to take it to the dump. All that grading looks unpermitted too.

    • I hate the trash and spilled diesel and all night lights more than growing by far, also. I hope anyone who has neighbors like this do the right thing as well.. whether you call dfg or handle it off the radar. Keep these kind of scenes out.

      • Oh that quaint faint “belief” you have. Go prohibition! Go Law Enforcement!
        Absolutely Adorable..

        So far so good!

        Why not go chase Nestle. How bout Bank of America.. I’ve got a list..

  • So busy chasing the first run every year they can’t even live a civilized life. Its all so familiar.. his workers hardly have time to eat let alone clean up the bone yards.
    Just another stupid industry, but one that has made many little nobody’s into big somebody’s. Good riddance, we’ll all miss the easy money, but I won’t miss the skeemers, legal or not, you suck!
    Namaste

  • Guess the pot pays better in fines and is more important to the county enviormental health than the drinking water for the residents of Alderpoint. Oh the health dept. is well aware that the innocent residents, ( children ) have their drinking water infiltration gallery in the main fork of the eel river, right under the old LP mill, where many gallons of toxic chemicals and 55 gallon barrels are. They have been there for years and never has anything been addressed. If that is not corrupt what would you call it ? Why is this not addressed? The area is a cancer cluster and there is no denying it. Just do the homework and you will know this to be true. Why is this not news? Disgusting to pick and choose. Is not the chemicals to treat lumber, letting the run off go straight into the towns drinking water worth doing anything about? Oh no way….. corruption at its best!!

    • Geography lesson

      This grow does not affect Alderpoint drinking water in any way. Wrong area.

      • I believe the point was that the money and energy that went into the raid would have been better spent on the water issues in the town of Alderpoint, especially the environmental enforcement.

        We do have our water district well directly downstream from the mill site (closed since 1982 or so). It is unsettling news to hear that there are chemicals still on-site, surely the owners of the land have been told to clean it up, right?

        • Ask Louise Anzini.

        • I have a real estate app and I’ve noticed a lot of property listed as vacant.
          I’m not sure if they are seized by the feds or behind in property taxes.
          Always the voice of sanity Ed.

        • yes ed you are right. when that crank lab was dumped in mill creek. Some people talk when they have no idea of the history. That is when the district stopped feeding mill creek in the drinking water. I know you have taken interest over the decades to help with the drinking water and thank you for the effort. Too bad ignorant thinking was an excuse for water board to laff off your efforts.

      • Maybe you need a history lesson! G L

  • He diffently doesn’t have his papers illegal alien for sure ridiculous .our justice system is a farce,and no zack to boot. But good job busting the environmental aspect of this horrible grow.

  • Oooh one more thing I’m amazed that we know who got busted this time . I got pulled over a few years back on a dui check point had a bout a pound of trim long story short got arrested .20,000 dollar bail ,and I have a 215 they took my pot ,and dropped the charge wtf ,and this guy breaks every law in the book when it comes to Mary Jane .,and his bail is 25,000 wtf

  • Garberville Vagrant Dingleberry Underpants

    Our supes a joke! 25k bail?! Wtf!

  • Garberville Vagrant Dingleberry Underpants

    Still time to replant, clean your trash up and replant asap! F the pose!

  • Martin Bertelsen

    Out on bail, and on his way back to Mexico with millions of dollars in cash. Laughing at HSO. And the State of California the whole way.

  • they should have taken the photo of the generator before cutting the supply line and causing the release. now there is proof and with proof comes liability.

  • I wonder what prompted the law enforcement to bust this particular grow ? I’m sure there are alot of grows out there that are just as bad or worse .what is the laws criteria? They probably pick a number out of a hat .kym what is your theory ?

    • In the past it’s been “complaint driven”, at least officially. Don’t know if that’s still the case.

    • The laws get together in the doughnut 🍩 room , blind fold each other , and try and pin the red dot on the map of what grow they are gonna bust. Kinda like pin the tail on the donkey …. literally they do this .

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    10,600 plants, and a big sticky mess!

    Hmmmm, no permit? No weed!

    Let this be a lesson to you, pot farmers!

    And a pesky fat fine too!

  • It looks like a scorched earth policy around the greenhouses.

  • Give a hoot and don’t pollute!!!!!:)

  • Disgusting. These are the types of grows that need to be busted. If only these idiots treated the land as nice as they treated the inside of their greenhouses. Not one piece of trash or a coke can in sight there…

  • So many water bottles in the trash on the ground. Are they too lazy to haul jugs of water out there? Doesn’t surprise me sadly.

  • Gee. That’s a hec-tor of a way to treat our environment….. 😮 🙁 nIn

    • Just an FYI. The poor guy actually has been cleaning the place up since they bought it 5 months ago. They are being busted for the trash they inherited from the previous owners.

      • Aha, that would explain while the greenhouses look so well-built and the trash looks so old.

        • Looks like two guys and one week cleanup.
          What say ERC?
          Garbage looks old real quick left out in the rain all winter.

      • Poor guy? My dad used to tell me I could find sympathy in the dictionary, right between sh*t and syphilis. When you buy trashed land the trash becomes your responsibility.

  • I like thinking

    I wonder how many individuals between Hector and El Chapo or a similar kingpin.

  • Pretty much doing everything wrong on this one. Spilled fuel, light pollution, a garbage dump, grading, …

    • The spilled fuel might be from the officers. Many occasions they dump diesel and even spent motor oil on ground. They’ve also been known to puncture water tanks and let the thousands of gallons of water run on the ground. Don’t believe everything you see.

      • Fuel/oil spot on the ground looks old, I don’t think that’s the case here, if it does happen and I’m not it does or doesn’t, I doubt they would do it in front of fish and game.

        • You may be right. They probably didn’t use their normal tactics with FG there. I can say 100%, they cut and dump fuel, oil and water often at these busts.

        • you can click on the photo and zoom. notice the disconnected feed line and areas where there is no dust on the line anymore. someone handled the line and disconnected it. spill looks fresh except in the back where it is a motor oil stain. keep in mind, they also have a rep for doing this when they take the geni.

  • Word in town is that the sheriff was back today for a second day, and that they are looking for Zach and penalizing the Rancho for not giving him up. Town word is that the Sheriff said, during the last search, “not one plant in the Rancho will live to harvest if we don’t catch Zach.” I can’t vouch for it, but it is true that their second failed attempt to catch him follow a sighting in the Rancho. Also said is that they served a considerable number of Abatement Orders in the Rancho en route to the parcels for which they had a warrant. I can confirm one, and expect more to become known.

    • ED, any idea how many abatement notices total have gone out so far county wide? Is there a public list? I’ve been trying to watch the Times Standard but it’s hard to keep track. Looks like they have been serving small clusters every couple of weeks.

      • I heard they are about to send out 400 in whitethorn/ettersburg. But that could just be a rumor.

    • “We can’t do our job. We were trained to shove our hands in the pockets of the weakest among us, the most battered helpless homeless addicts. There we can rack up arrest stats and collect DEA Drug War grants, like for the MWRAP we eventually got rid of.. we just prefer pensions.
      Retroactive investigations, like to address the stacks of sex crimes and the never ending ever expanding list of open homicides… we have not a clue, save for MAYBE one or two.. Execution of, even the writing up of a search warrant.. no thanks.. we demand tips on where the millions are buried or we will “serve and protect” you.”

      -The thin blue vail.

      To think… some of you once noticed the total and complete futility in prohibition. The inherent DANGER. The complete lack of study.. 30’s wasn’t that long ago… Now, some of those same folks snitch to Fish and Game. Wonderful job they do saving our salmon.. Fish and game. Makes cents I guess..

      America = A Nation with Amnesia. This marriage between countrymen and captors was born of rape and pillage… anyone awake??

      “Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters wives, I don’t know how it all got started, don;t know what they’re doing with their lives..”

    • I heard of several also and saw one.

      • Kym, any idea how many abatement notices total have gone out county wide so far? Any insight into future plans for them? Seems like they could issue hundreds (or thousands) if they choose to.

    • And if the police are doing this? If you have not set yourself up to be easy marks, it would not happen. Always criminals complain that the police are not being “fair” . So what do they consider fair? Apparently that criminals can do whatever they want secure in the knowledge that police are bound by mysterious rules that keep the criminals safe. I remember a long litany, repeated many times, given out by a burglar, who was arrested and missed an appointment, that the police targeted him for being a stranger in a neighborhood. Totally unfair of them to pick on him. They illegally “profiled” him was his term for what happened. They did not behave properly. And he was incensed. That he was carrying an armful of stolen goods, so much he kept dropping them, was totally irrelevant in his mind. The burglary he skated right over in his story. What was important to him was that the police were so unfair, having violated the rules he was sure existed. Nothing seems to offend the criminal as the police not playing fair.

  • Time to publicly shame by naming the owner(s) of the land that allows, or benefits from, this environmental assault.

  • hector looks like he is on tweek to me.

  • Make the landowner and growers tear down and clean up every bit.

  • Damn, the Gary Sinese foundation is ambitious!

  • In addition to the obscene environmental damage.
    Their Feng Shui is Way Funky.

  • 35 were just sent to properties in Rancho

    • Yup Rancho just got carpet bombed. they are all listed online. The biggest abatement load yet.

      • These abatement notices may be a game changer. As most know, land owners have used sharecroppers as their fall guys for a long time now. In the event of a bust the land owner has been able to claim ignorance and avoid publicity, legal ramifications and often financial losses. That is no longer the case.

        • Umm…except it is. Lawyer up and deny. There is no way the county can hold me responsible for what happens on my remote 160 acres when I live elsewhere and don’t go there. One good lawsuit will destroy this strategy for the county. Meanwhile they attach no penalties to the actual growers who they find on the site?! Ha Ha Ha!!Doomed to fail…

  • The press release from the cops is not just misleading, it is contains a bit of false information. There were 3 parcels involved. The man arrested was on one parcel, a parcel with a small minority of the plants. The parcels with the large gardens resulted in no arrests, and are unlikely to result in any arrests now because there is usually no follow up investigation on these raids. It probably seems more cost-effective to do hit and run raids. It is typical of the cops to conflate their investigations and make it seem that everything is one big operation rather than take the time to detail what they actually found parcel by parcel. The Rancho is a big place with a long and complex history of property occupation and use and its the details that tell the real story,

    • That seems like an irrelevant cavil. You are objecting to your own interpretation of what others might think. The report said three parcels, one arrest. Nothing more. Yet you proceed to condemn the police for their devious plan to create disinformation that you came up with all on your own.

      • If the story is as ED says, then I think it is an important point.

        Imagine you broke the law a little, say by speeding. And the driver of the car in front of you started bashing people with his vehicle, killing one and the officers arrested you and the driver.

        If the press release conflates the information to something like ‘Drivers speeding and slamming their cars into others caused the death of one person,’ you would rightfully be unhappy that your reputation was damaged.

        • Kym, do you know if the parcels are owned by the same person(s)? Do you know if Mr Escalante owns any or all of them (or is just the help)?

        • If I had been named. Or accused. But the point was that no one other than the arrested was mentioned. And the arrested was accused only of what he did. In your example, it would be as if one driver hit a another car but no one died while another person hit a car and someone died. Would you not be writing the headline “One dies in accident allegedly caused by speeding?” You would not title the article “One speeding driver doesn’t kill. Another does.”

    • What’s really needed – to be effective- is a program where the sheriff stays in a neighborhood for a few days destroying crops from all the nearby properties. Chip them up, confiscate any assets and move to the next one. Then go to a different neighborhood and do the same thing. Waste no resources on arrests or processing of the scene. Just take the profit motive away, over and over. Oh- and he should do this like 15 years ago. Instead of ignoring it for decades and making excuses.

    • ED, do you know if the three parcels are owned by the same person(s)? If so, seems fair to lump them together. If not, your point seems to carry more weight.

  • The three parcels are not under the same ownership. I believe the cops had a warrant for one parcel and that was the one where they found something like 10,000 plants. I am unclear on which parcel the third parcel is, assuming Hector was on the 2nd one. As for the Abatement totals, I’ll try to remember to ask the CEU when I see them tomorrow. I’ll say this: they are a total profit center for the county. They will probably take in more money from the Abatement than from the Measure S tax.

    • Thanks ED. It seems like abatement is receiving little attention but may affect a huge number of people. There are 28 new ones listed in the Times Standard classifieds, all in Rancho. This is by far the largest batch unless I missed one.

    • As they should if the goal is to force people into compliance rather than arrest them.

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