BRITISH COLUMBIA

Underground Grow-Op Found Under Fake Horse Paddock

05/07/2013 06:15 EDT | Updated 07/07/2013 05:12 EDT
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LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 7: Marijuana plants grow at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center, a not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensary in operation since 2006, on September 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. A group of activists have submitted about 50,000 signatures in an effort to force a referendum on a marijuana dispensary ban in Los Angeles to take effect next week. A minimum of 27,425 valid signatures from registered voters is needed to let voters decide on the issue in March, and until the number can be verified, the ban will not be enforced. . The ban would not prevent patients or cooperatives of two or three people to grow their own in small amounts. Californians voted to legalize medical cannabis use in 1996, clashing with federal drug laws. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Special investigators have put a $10-million dent in the profits of outlaw motorcycle gangs in the Fraser Valley after busting four marijuana grow-ops, including one in an elaborately-disguised underground bunker.

Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, spokesman for B.C.'s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said the grow-ops were all in rural Mission, and were all linked to outlaw motorcycle gangs, including the Hells Angels.

Houghton said that of the four grow-ops that were shut down Friday, a bunker at a property off De Graff road stood out as one of the most sophisticated operations B.C. police have ever seen.

"The people went so far as to construct a fake horse paddock and stable overtop of this bunker. Officers walking up to it initially thought it looked exactly like a horse paddock would but it is, in effect, just a movie set," Houghton said.

Venting for the underground greenhouse was camouflaged by a fire pit and "a fake dog house made out of beautiful wood," he said.

Houghton also said the grow-op properties each had a natural gas generator, worth an estimated $100,000 apiece.

"Enough to power a large Metro Vancouver hospital or even small northern towns," Houghton said.

Police had to bring in a crane to remove the generators from the properties.

Houghton said that police seized over 10,000 live plants and 200 lbs of dried marijuana, together worth between $5 million and $10 million;$1 million's worth of equipment and $20,000 cash.

"These are not the classic marijuana grows in a closet in the basement or even ones seen in typical residential homes.

"We are talking about large, highly sophisticated grows that are using the latest technology to boost the growing cycle as well as extremely high levels of security to keep the grow operation concealed from both the police and, more importantly from the grower's perspective, from organizations that exist almost solely to steal or 'rip' grow-operations," Houghton said in a written statement.

Five men in their 30s suspected of being caretakers for the grow-ops were arrested, including a 34-year-old who is suspected of being the caretaker of the whole operation. He was taken into custody in a home in the 4500 block of 206th Avenue in Langley.

"For the owners of these grows, it is all about creating an easy, untaxed, very lucrative income stream from the production of marijuana. It’s all about money and, in this case, we believe that money is associated to organized crime," Houghton said in a written statement.

The men were all released from custody while drug-related charges are being considered.

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