Jan 062011

DELHI — Narcotics agents found 550 marijuana plants and arrested two men hiding in secret compartments underneath a double-wide trailer home that was hollowed out for the sole purpose of growing marijuana indoors, Merced County sheriff’s officials said.

Deputies on Tuesday arrested Shao Fan, 28, and Peng Chan, 31, both of San Francisco, said sheriff’s spokesman deputy Tom MacKenzie. He said agents found the indoor marijuana garden at the home in the 14000 block of Second Avenue South, east of Highway 99.

Investigators initially responded to a report of possible utility theft at the home, Rosalio Ahumada reports in the Modesto Bee.

MacKenzie said the deputies arrived at the home and found evidence that indicated there was a possible marijuana growing operation inside. The deputies also could hear suspects inside the home, but nobody answered the door.

The Merced-Mariposa High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force was called to the home to take over the investigation.

The agents obtained a search warrant and searched the home, finding 75 pounds of processed marijuana with an estimated street value of more than $250,000, Mac-Kenzie said. (Bud’s note: That’s an estimate of more than $3,300 per pound.) The agents also found marijuana plants in various stages of growth and thousands of dollars’ worth of “sophisticated” equipment.

Deputies searching the home could hear movement under the trailer. MacKenzie said they found Fan and Chan hiding in holes cut through the home’s floor as escape compartments.

He said the agents discovered the trailer’s electrical wiring had been rerouted to bypass the electricity meter, stealing about $5,000 to $10,000 worth of electricity each month to maintain the indoor marijuana garden.

Fan and Chan were arrested on suspicion of marijuana cultivation, possession of marijuana for sale, theft of utilities, conspiracy to commit a crime and maintaining a house for narcotics sales.

MacKenzie said Fan was on parole for a conviction of marijuana cultivation. Both men were being held Wednesday afternoon at the Merced County Jail; bail for each was set at $295,000.

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