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Drug Agency Hopes to Seize San Dimas House

Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration wants to seize a luxurious hillside home valued at more than $1 million that was used as a greenhouse for growing large amounts of marijuana.

When drug agents raided the two-story, four-bedroom home in an exclusive San Dimas neighborhood Tuesday morning, they found 2,500 marijuana plants being cultivated in a sophisticated hydroponic growing system. The owner of the house, Rollin Scott Forteville, 38, and Jeff Jenkins, 26, were arrested on suspicion of marijuana cultivation.

They were held on $1-million bail.

Under federal law, property that is used in the manufacture, transportation or sale of illegal drugs is subject to seizure. The DEA will use the law--which is applied most often to seize cars, boats and planes used to smuggle drugs--to try to acquire the house, spokesman Ralph Lochridge said.

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“It’ll help us pay off the deficit,” he quipped.

To seize the house, the DEA must file an affidavit with the U.S. attorney’s office, essentially seeking an “arrest warrant” for the property, said David Stanley, chief deputy with the U.S. marshal’s office in Los Angeles.

Federal marshals will then seize the property and manage it until a U.S. District Court judge rules on whether it was actually used for illegal activity, Stanley said.

Process Takes Months

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If the judge finds insufficient evidence that the property was used illegally, it will be returned to its owner, Stanley said. If the house is found “guilty,” he said, it will be sold by the marshal’s office through a private broker. The process usually takes between three and six months.

The San Dimas house raided Tuesday, which Forteville reportedly bought with $400,000 cash in 1981, has an assessed value of $450,280, according to property records. However, drug agents estimated the market value of the house, which sits atop a heavily wooded 3.5-acre lot and features four bathrooms and a pool, at between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Contrary to some popular conceptions, Stanley said, the government does not offer seized property to the public at bargain-basement prices. If the San Dimas home is seized, it will be listed at market value and sold by a real estate agent, he said.

“We’ll usually end up selling them for more than we list them because the market here is so crazy,” Stanley said.

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Locals May Get Share

Once the home is sold, the proceeds--minus liens, outstanding mortgage payments and costs incurred by the marshal’s office--go into the U.S. Treasury, Stanley said. However, local law enforcement agencies may request a percentage of the profit, based on their participation in the investigation that led to the seizure.

“Sometimes it’s a total local effort,” he said. “They can request 100% and receive it.”

The investigation that led to Tuesday’s raid was conducted by the San Gabriel Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team, composed of state, county and local officers, in cooperation with the DEA. The enforcement team will request an undetermined share of the proceeds of the house’s sale if it is seized, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Barry Wish.

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