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PALERMO, Calif. - The special enforcement unit of the Butte County Sheriff's Office located a large marijuana cultivation site in Palermo, and arrested two men. Several others fled the scene during the bust.
The grow was discovered after an overflight of North Honcut Creek revealed what investigators believed was a commercial marijuana cultivation operation.
2,000 pounds of processed and unprocessed marijuana were discovered Wednesday at the site, which was a property on Dunstone Drive near Bangor Park Road.
Officers said they arrested a Hispanic male they found tending plants. Several other Hispanic males fled from the area on foot, and were not arrested. The arrested man was identified as 21 year old Eliecer Osornio-Gomez of Michoacan, Mexico, but authorities said they believe his documents were fraudulent. They plan to conduct a live-scan of the man at the jail to determine his true identity.
They arrested "Osornio-Gomez" for felony cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, being armed in the commission of a felony and multiple envioronmental crimes including diverting a creek, having petroleum near a creek, disposing trash within 150 feet of a creek, and for having deleterious substances (Tide detergent) near a creek. His bail has been set at $78,000.
Authorities say the members of the drug trafficking organization drafted water from North Honcut Creek with gasoline powered water pumps. Gasoline was stored along the crek bank, where human waste was found, along with litter.
Officers believed Tide laundry detergency was used in the creek to wash clothing. They said the detergent caused an algae bloom in the creek.
376 marijuana plants weighing 1,220 poinds were eradicated from the edge of the waterway. In the processing and camp area another 755 pounds of processed marijuana was found and removed. A Mossberg AR-15 rifle with two 30 round magazines was found nearby.
Officers located 56 year old Sven Gerald Banse in a travel trailer on the property. He was identified as the owner of the parcel. Inside the trailer they found 25 more pounds of processed cannabis and a .17 calber rifle.
According to officials with the Sheriff's Office, evidence at the scene indicated that Banse was approached by a member of a drug trafficking organization and was to be paid $10,000 cash for the use of his land to cultivate the cannabis by other members of the organization.
Banse was arrested for maintaining a place for the sale of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, and for being armed in the commission of a felony. His bail was set at $33,000.