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OROVILLE, Calif. - The Butte County Sheriff's Office detained three suspects in a marijuana investigation, which lead to the discovery of a major credit card fraud and identity theft scandal.
On Sept. 13, the Special Enforcement Unit served a search warrant for Starziak Lane in Oroville.
When they approached the resident, they found Nathan Kaopua, 45, of Oroville, standing next to a stolen Home Depot rental van from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was detained without incident. Inside the home, they found Sonja Burns, 33, of Oroville, and Jesus Valencia-Navarro, 43, of Michoacan, Mexico. Both were also detained without incident.
When the van was searched, the team found numerous items used to manufacture credit and debit cards using stolen credit card information. They also found a stolen Lime Bike rental bike.
When the residence was searched, they found that Burns had been living in the home since May 2018 when she was not the proper owner. The true property owner lives out of the area and alerted the Butte County Sheriff's Office after they started receiving expensive PG&E bills, according to the release.
A search of Burns' bedroom revealed methamphetamine, prescription pills, methamphetamine pipes and equipment to manufacture fraudulent driver's licenses. They also found a bag which contained hundreds of fraudulent credit cards, debit cards and licenses that they concluded belonged to Kaopua.
In the living room of the home, police found a loaded shotgun that they concluded belonged to Valencia-Navarro and was used to protect two greenhouses containing marijuana on the property.
The team found in the investigation that it appears that Burns illegally occupied the home and rented the land to individuals to cultivate marijuana illegally.
A total of 174 marijuana plants were found on the property.
Burns was arrested and transported to the Butte County Jail and booked on felony charges of maintaining a residence for drug sales, manufacturing fake access cards, cultivation of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia.
Kaopua was arrested and transported to the Butte County Jail and booked on felony charges of transportation of marijuana into California, possession of a stolen vehicle, manufacturing fake access cards, forging state identification card, and a felony warrant out of Yuba County for being a felon in possession of ammunition.
Valencia-Navarro was arrested and transported to the Butte County Jail and booked on charges of cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale.