Police shut down 23 grow houses in summer stings
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Sep 27, 2013 | 7862 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The illegal marijuana growing industry in Tracy may be in a recession because of months of work by police detectives.

According to Tracy police Sgt. Alex Neicu the department busted 23 grow houses and arrested 16 people in an extensive investigation over the summer.

“We started getting a lot of leads in

probably at the end of March, and we feel like we’re getting to the end of our leads,” Neicu said on Wednesday, Sept. 25, sitting inside the detectives’ bureau at the department.

“The brunt of the work was June, July and August, when we were doing sometimes two (busts) a day,” he said. “This summer, we were able to develop more leads, and we were lucky enough to get enough tips from neighbors to where they were adding up and we devoted time to it.”

Neicu said police seized thousands of marijuana plants in grow houses throughout the western portion of the city.

“We’re not talking about somebody growing a couple of plants for alleged medicinal use,” Neicu said. “These are felony crimes.”

According to Detective Mike Rickman, marijuana has a street value that increases outside of California. He said a pound of marijuana in California is valued at $1,500. That same amount can go for as much as $5,000 in the Midwest or $7,000 on the East Coast.

Neicu said investigators found evidence in the Tracy houses that some of the marijuana was being sold out of state. He said investigators found shipping boxes, labels and receipts.

Each house had between 70 and 1,275 plants and an elaborate growing setup, with thousands of dollars of damage to electrical and heating systems to accommodate the plants’ growth, Neicu said. The majority of the houses were renovated into nonlivable space, each room converted into separate growing areas.

A few of the grow houses were found to be allegedly run by the same people, particularly a group of men from San Francisco and San Jose, he said.

“We hit one house and in there we found names or addresses that would lead to another location,” he said. “Just good old-fashioned investigative work once you are pointed in the right direction.”

Among the people arrested are David Shain, Loc S. Nguyen, Loc T. Nguyen, Kevin Tran, Jiajian Huang, Hoa T. Nguyen, Jonathan Gil, David Nguyen, Yue Liang, Dung T. Nguyen, Huanrong Chen, Brenton Brooks, Xin Chen, Yue Liang, Huanrong Chen and Jimmy Tang.

Still wanted by police are Vu Phan and Hai Nguyen.

“There were 16 arrested, identified or charged,” Neicu said, “but we have a lot of locations that we haven’t identified who’s responsible. We have seven locations that we’re still doing follow-up, trying to figure out the name of the people involved.”

All of the houses where marijuana was found growing were rented by the people charged with the crime, he said.

Neicu said some of the grow houses could have been identified earlier if the owners had made periodic checks on their rental properties.

“If you rent out your property, it’s a really good practice to inspect it every once in a while,” he said. “Property checks might have not stopped some of the grow houses, but it might have at least shortened the time they were active.”

Neicu said homeowners need to pay attention to signs that a potential renter might want to use a house for illegal purposes.

“If you’re a neighbor and you see something suspicious, please call us,” he said. “You can be anonymous, and there’s really no damage in us looking into a situation.”

The dates and locations raided by police are: 1400 block of Poppy Hills Court, Feb. 26; 1200 block of Cherry Blossom Lane, Feb. 27; 200 block of Arroyo Hondo Circle, March 28; 1800 block of Foxwoods Drive, April 11; 1400 block of Evergreen Court, May 1; 1800 block of Kagehiro Drive and 1600 block of Smoky Lane, June 11; 3700 block of Norfolk Drive, June 12; 900 block of Cherry Blossom Lane, June 15; 2900 block of Whigham Court, June 19; 1400 block of Riverview Drive and 3100 block of Cynthia Court, July 2; 1700 block of Askren Court, July 3; 2100 block of Pedro Lane and 1200 block of Whispering Wind Drive, July 9; 1500 block of Gentry Lane, July 18; 1800 block of Crocus Court, July 24; 2200 block of Grant Teton Court, July 31; 4200 block of Roxbury Drive and 700 block of Kings Canyon Court, Aug. 14; 2000 block of Tracy Jean Drive, Aug. 15; 600 block of Ben Ingram Lane, Aug. 22; and 3900 block of Middlefield Drive, Sept. 18.

•Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com.

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