Officials Seize Another 1,100 Pot Plants : Drugs: The bust in Tar Creek Canyon is the county’s second largest this year. The marijuana farm is similar to one near Lake Casitas.


Authorities completed this year’s second-largest pot bust in Ventura County on Wednesday when they uprooted and burned more than 1,100 marijuana plants found in Tar Creek Canyon, valued by law enforcement at up to $4.49 million.

The seizure, on a parcel of federal land about five miles north of downtown Fillmore, came less than two weeks after sheriff’s deputies made what is thought to be the largest haul of illegal vegetation in Ventura County history by destroying nearly 6,000 marijuana plants growing in Willow Creek Canyon near Lake Casitas.

The Tar Creek cultivators had fled their makeshift camp but left behind several items, including handwritten notes, that may link them to the illicit farm that was discovered Sept. 2 near Lake Casitas.


The two pot farms, both located in rugged terrain, were similar in style, said Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Arnie Aviles.

“The method of operation was identical,” Aviles said. “They’re so similar that it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the same group. The camps themselves were set up the same way. There was writing in Spanish that looked like the same handwriting, but they’re smart enough not to identify themselves in writing.”

Both farms were near creeks, and the marijuana plants were irrigated with a hose from the natural water source. Authorities also found the same types of food items--nearly all with Mexican labels--and the same brand of bug repellent, along with butane stoves and sleeping bags in the abandoned camps.

Spotted Saturday by a low-flying Sheriff’s Department helicopter on routine patrol, the Tar Creek pot farm contained the same seedless, high grade of marijuana as was found at Willow Creek, which contained 6,000 plants with an estimated street value of about $24 million.

The 1,123 plants harvested Wednesday, each between 4 and 6 feet tall, were taken to an unidentified burn site in the Los Padres National Forest, soaked in diesel fuel and lit by a blowtorch.

Each of the destroyed plants would have yielded about one pound of the illegal drug, with a street value that ranges from $1,500 to $4,000 per pound depending on quality and demand, Aviles said.


“It was a very large plantation,” Aviles said. “This year’s been a bumper-crop season for us.”

Heavy rains earlier this year are being blamed in part for a record crop of marijuana plants.

Wednesday’s harvest was the eighth by sheriff’s deputies on public lands so far this year. To date, more than 9,000 plants--valued at more than $36 million--have been discovered on public property in Ventura County.

Sheriff’s officials say that another five to seven weeks remain in the marijuana harvesting season and that additional farms are expected to be confiscated.

Despite the record pace of seizures, only one alleged pot farmer has been arrested so far this year, authorities said. Authorities have no suspects in the Lake Casitas and Tar Creek Canyon seizures.

Aviles said he believes that Saturday’s helicopter patrol flew so low that the Tar Creek pot farmers spotted it and fled immediately.


The farm, which very likely had been started about six months ago, stretched about 400 yards along Tar Creek south of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, Aviles said.

At daybreak Wednesday, about a dozen sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Forest Service rangers were dropped by helicopter about 200 yards away from the long, narrow farm, which is bordered by high canyon walls and the creek.

They found the camping gear, clothing, paper and pens, hoses, barrels, timing devices, a watering system and several weeks’ worth of food, according to Aviles.