COLUMBIA — Tuolumne County drug enforcement officials Friday raided four marijuana fields within miles of each other and destroyed more than 15,000 plants that were just about ready for harvesting.
This makes of total of more than 26,000 marijuana plants that were seized, shredded in a wood chipper and burned this week by members of the Tuolumne County Narcotics Team.
Friday's raids were near Italian Bar Road, just north of Columbia in the county's southwest rural area, said Detective Jarrod Pippin, a member of the narcotics team.
If allowed to harvest, the plants could have had a street value of as much as $40 million, Pippin said.
Tuesday morning, the narcotics team raided a marijuana field in the Stanislaus National Forest and authorities destroyed 2,602 plants.
Thursday, the narcotics team raided two marijuana fields in the area of Marshes Flat Road in south Tuolumne County and destroyed 9,072 plants.
Friday, the team destroyed 15,145 plants, Pippin said.
In all the cases, no one was found and no suspects were identified.
The secret pot gardens were spotted earlier this summer during an aircraft flyover. The state Department of Justice's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting funds the flyovers and assists with the raids.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials also assisted with the raid Friday.
Pippin said the marijuana fields raided this week appear to be the work of Mexican drug traffickers, based on the Spanish writing, clothing and other evidence found at the scene.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.