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Harvest Reaps Crop Of Another Kind

POSTED October 16, 2012 9:09 p.m.

October is the time for harvest. And in the Central Valley, including Oakdale, local drug agents have been busy taking down marijuana grows throughout Stanislaus County. For the second time in as many weeks, Oakdale Police have raided a pot plantation within the city and made arrests of the growers.

On Wednesday, Oct. 10 Oakdale Police and agents from the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency arrested two individuals associated with an elaborate indoor marijuana grow with more than 150 plants inside a house on the 300 block of Johnson Avenue.

Acting on a tip and complaints of the obvious odor from the illegal weed, police officers, including Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins, conducted a surveillance of the house that appeared vacant. While observing the residence, a vehicle pulled up and the occupants went inside. Within minutes one of the persons returned to the vehicle and drove away. Officers made a traffic stop on the car and contacted Tyler Esparza, 19, of Oakdale.

According to Oakdale Police Detective Max Messina, Esparza was on probation for narcotic charges. Officers went back to the residence and there contacted Alexander Meza, 36, of Copperopolis.

When at the residence, officers noticed potted marijuana plants lining the interior of the house with a sophisticated growing system consisting of fans, special lighting, drip irrigation, and a drain system.

“They had the whole gamut,” said Messina. “When Stan DEA (county task force) came out, they said it was one of the most technical and elaborate grows in the county.”

Messina said the property was being rented by Meza. When the property owner arrived she said she had no idea of what the house was being used for and was upset at some of the damage caused to the house to accommodate the grow system.

“What made this site so unique was the set up to the structure that housed the plants, the sophistication of the equipment that was used, and clearly the volume that was being harvested,” said Messina.

At the time of his arrest, Meza was an employee of Absolute Hydroponics in Oakdale, which specializes in supplying materials and equipment for indoor plant growing operations.

Kelly Rhead, owner of the store, said Meza had worked at the shop about a year.

“I have no idea what he does outside of work,” Rhead said about Meza and his arrest. “It has nothing to do with my store.”

Rhead said as a guideline he does not associate with his employees outside of the workplace. He did not know about the property Meza had in the city and had thought he lived with his parents in Copperopolis.

Rhead said he did not know Meza to purchase any major equipment or supplies from the store and there had not been any notable inventory loss in the store.

Meza and Esparza were booked into Stanislaus County Jail on felony marijuana cultivation and possession of marijuana for sales charges and were being held in lieu of $25,000 bail each.

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