House raid nets pot plants, ecstasy pills in Modesto

Authorities found hundreds of marijuana plants and brightly-colored ecstasy pills in the shape of Transformers heads at a southwest Modesto home Thursday.

The Modesto police Narcotics Enforcement Team and Street Crimes Unit swept into the neighborhood between Chicago Avenue and Paradise Road and brought about 10 men, women and children into the front yard.

As the group waited in the shade of a small tree, several cried. Officers dragged bundles of marijuana plants into the yard. A small child walked back and forth in a diaper.

Authorities went to the 1000 block of Lombardy Avenue after receiving a tip that there might be drug activity at the residence, Sgt. Craig Gundlach of the Modesto Police Department said.

Officers said they found about 100 marijuana plants in the back yard, some as tall as 5 feet. Hundreds more small marijuana plants were in a room in the home, Gundlach said. Also in the room, police said, they found two loaded handguns, one with an illegal magazine with room for extra bullets.

Police also found baggies with purple and aqua pills they identified as ecstasy tablets. The pills were shaped like heads of Transformers, the popular robot action figures, Gundlach said.

"If someone didn't know what they were looking at, they could mistake them for a piece of candy. And especially when you have small children living in the home that have access to this type of drug," Gundlach said.

Officers said five children lived in the home, one about a year old, and others ages 2, 5, 10 and 12.

Gundlach said officers found signs of gang involvement inside the home.

"They're seeing signs that are indicative of gang activity -- clothing, tattoos, writings, other documentation -- inside," he said. "And I think the weapons inside, the high-capacity magazine located inside the house, along with the drugs, give a clear indication that this is a gang-involved drug business."

Two couples and a third man lived at the home, along with the five children. The women and children remained at home; the three men were arrested.

Sdey Chim, 32, and Chab Heng, 27, were arrested on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sales and conspiracy.

Charlie Ruem, 23, was arrested on suspicion of possession of ecstasy for sales, cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and possessing a controlled substance while armed with a loaded handgun.

Authorities are trying to determine whether to add gang- related violations to the list, Gundlach said.

All three appear to have moved to Modesto from other areas. Ruem had identification from Washington and the others appear to have moved from Los Angeles, Gundlach said.

Neighbor Robert Taylor, 25, said the people in the home appeared very family-oriented. There hadn't been extra traffic to the home or problems on the street.

"They were very quiet," he said. "They always kept to themselves. I saw them a lot playing in the front yard with their kids. I had no idea this was going on."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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