Four people have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges they grew thousands of marijuana plants inside homes in Elk Grove and Sacramento.
The suspects, 59-year-old Oakland resident Zhiqiang Liu; San Francisco residents 47-year-old Shihong Chen and 44-year-old Qinghong Li; and 39-year-old Jun Mou Peng, are accused of operating seven grow houses.
On Jan. 30, authorities seized more than $4,000 in cash, nearly 3,000 marijuana plants and 100 pounds of processed pot from the homes allegedly operated by the group. The suspects were found inside the homes and arrested, according to a press release.
The operation was discovered in 2012, when SMUD officials noticed an unusually high amount of electricity, "commonly seen in indoor marijuana grows," being used by the homes in question, the press release states.
The homes alleged to be part of the pot-growing operation are:
- 8646 Everidge Court, Sacramento
- 8270 Cliffcrest Drive, Sacramento
- 35 Caina Court, Sacramento
- 3713 45th Avenue, Sacramento
- 6901 Pradera Mesa Drive, Sacramento
- 9761 McKenna Drive Elk Grove
- 8108 Gwerder Court, Elk Grove
The suspects have pleaded not guilty and face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $10 million fine.
The full press release from United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner's office follows:
FOUR INDICTED FOR GROWING MARIJUANA INSIDE 7 ELK GROVE AND SACRAMENTO HOUSES
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment on Wednesday, charging Zhiqiang Liu, 59, of Oakland, Shihong Chen, 47, Qinghong Li, 44, both of San Francisco, and Jun Mou Peng, 39, with crimes related to cultivating marijuana in seven homes, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Marshals Service, and the Elk Grove Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Olusere Olowoyeye is prosecuting the case.
According to court documents, on January 30, 2013, law enforcement agents conducted searches and seized 2,912 marijuana plants, approximately 100 pounds of processed marijuana, and more than $4,000 in cash. Agents found the defendants in the grow houses and arrested them. They were arraigned on Thursday and pleaded not guilty. A status conference is scheduled for April 24, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller. Seven others were arrested in the houses and face state drug trafficking charges.
According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began in April 2012 when investigators at the Sacramento MunicipalUtilities District (SMUD) reported to law enforcement that a residence was using an unusually large amount of electricity, commonly seen in indoor marijuana grows. Further investigation revealed seven houses were involved:
8646 Everidge Court, Sacramento
8270 Cliffcrest Drive, Sacramento
35 Caina Court, Sacramento
3713 45th Avenue, Sacramento
6901 Pradera Mesa Drive, Sacramento
9761 McKenna Drive Elk Grove
8108 Gwerder Court, Elk Grove.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.