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Botched burglary leads to discovery of pot farm in South El Monte

June 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A botched burglary in South El Monte on Saturday led police to the discovery of a warehouse with 3,000 marijuana plants with a street value of about $1 million.

Officials said five men with gloves and clippers were spotted trying to get into the warehouse in the 2500 block of Continental Avenue about 11:30 a.m. The men apparently pulled up in U-Haul truck.

Police said they arrested the men, who admitted to trying to break in to steal the pot plants. Investigators were trying to determine who was running the marijuana-growing operation.

Seven rooms were filled with marijuana plants and sophisticated growing equipment. The operators dug their way through concrete to steal power, scamming Southern California Edison out of an estimated $10,000 to $25,000 a month in electricity.

"This is high-grade marijuana compared to most of the lower-grade marijuana that comes from Mexico," said one official who wished to remain anonymous. "This is obviously worth a lot more. Where low grade can cost $300, $400 per pound, this can cost anywhere from $1,500 to maybe $3,000 per pound."

Neighbors said they had no idea what type of business the warehouse was.

"Sometimes you'll see a lot of motorcycles built up already, so I thought it was a motorcycle factory," Edison Vazquez said.

Police spent all afternoon slashing and collecting the plants as evidence.

"It's something that we want off the street in our city - in any city nobody wants this - especially so close to a neighborhood," police Det. Ralph Batres said.

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