Turlock cops report illegal marijuana grow in building whose owners include Jeff Denham

Clockwise from top left: Gino Nardozzo, Andy Tran, Chris Pham, Sang Nguyen and Xiaofeng Wang
Clockwise from top left: Gino Nardozzo, Andy Tran, Chris Pham, Sang Nguyen and Xiaofeng Wang Turlock Police Department

Turlock police conducted a raid Wednesday and reported finding an indoor grow of nearly 4,000 marijuana plants and other drugs in an industrial building whose owners include former U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham.

Turlock attorney Michael Warda confirmed Denham is a member of the limited liability company that owns the building at 680 D St. in Turlock where an indoor grow of nearly 4,000 marijuana plants and other drugs were found. Besides the drugs, police reported in a news release they arrested five people.

“Denham is a member of the LLC that owns the building that was raided,” Warda said in a Wednesday phone interview. He contacted The Modesto Bee and said he was speaking on behalf of the former congressman after the newspaper attempted to reach Denham. The release did not state who owns the building that police searched.

The building is next to Denham Plastics, and Warda said the two buildings are about 75 feet apart and share a common gate and easement to use the gate. But he said Denham Plastics workers had no indication of any alleged illegal activity. Warda added that the raided building is huge, roughly 50,000 square feet, making concealment easy.

Warda said the 680 D Street LLC was in the process of selling the building to a company that had applied to the city for a permit to grow marijuana. He said the sale was contingent upon the city approving the permit.

“The contract is terminated,” Warda said after speaking with Denham. “They are losing their deposit. (Denham) was surprised they undertook this action when they had a substantial investment in the building and were virtually guaranteed a permit to operate legally.”

Denham served in the House of Representatives as a Republican for eight years before losing in a close race to Democrat Josh Harder in November to represent Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County. Denham then joined the global law firm K&L Gates as a government affairs counselor in Washington, D.C.

The statement of information filed Aug. 1 with the California Secretary of State for the 680 D Street limited liability company lists Denham Plastics’ main office in Salinas as where to send official documents for the 680 D Street LLC. And the statement of information lists a chief executive officer, and it lists Denham as an additional manager or member. There are no other managers or members listed on the statement.

Denham Plastics provides containers for shipping and harvesting produce.

City Attorney Doug White said a company called Kings Happy Farm had applied with the city for a permit to grow marijuana. He said the city’s processing of the application was in the very early stages, and the city had not yet conducted background checks.

White said someone from the city eventually would have toured the building as part of processing the application. “I don’t know how you hide 4,000 plants,” he said.

The news release states that detectives also found more than “100 pounds of processed marijuana, several ounces of butane hash oil, three firearms, a small amount of heroin, cocaine (and) methamphetamine.”

Police arrested Gino Nardozzo, 54, of Turlock and Sang Nguyen, 34, Chris Pham, 43, Andy Tran, 36, and Xiaofeng Wang, 30, all of Sacramento, according to the news release.

They were booked at the Stanislaus County Jail on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance, cultivation of marijuana and marijuana sales.

The Ceres police SWAT team and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department assisted Turlock police, which also used its SWAT team, in carrying out the search warrant. Turlock detectives obtained the warrant for the building based on evidence that it housed an illegal marijuana grow.

Police Chief Nino Amirfar said in the release that while Turlock is developing a pilot program to allow cannabis businesses, the city will not tolerate illegal activity.

“This particular marijuana grow was a very sophisticated operation,” Amirfar said. “It is clear that it had substantial financial backing. Our investigation will continue and all who are affiliated with this illegal operation may face prosecution.”

Bee reporter Erin Tracy and research and information specialist Maria Luisa Figueroa contributed to this story.

Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and grew up in San Jose.