Two anonymous tips led authorities to separate indoor marijuana gardens earlier this week near Delhi schools, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department reported.
One man was arrested and another is wanted in connection with the unrelated growing operations, Deputy Delray Shelton said.
“The information the investigators received from the community was crucial to bringing down these drug operations,” Shelton said.
Deputies raided a home in the 16000 block of Palmento Court around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and seized 212 marijuana plants and 15 pounds of marijuana buds, with an estimated street value of about $450,000, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Investigators said Didier Lopez, 46, converted the home into an indoor grow house and had separate marijuana crops in different stages of development. Lopez was also stealing utilities from the Turlock Irrigation District, the Sheriff’s Department said.
“This residence was located only about a block and a half from the high school in the area,” Shelton said.
Lopez was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of marijuana cultivation and utilities theft.
About three hours later that same day, deputies raided a home in the 16000 block of Glory Court, authorities said.
“This operation was just behind Delhi Middle School,” Shelton said.
Deputies also found a laboratory inside the home believed to have been used to extract THC, the main psychoactive in marijuana. The process is dangerous and has been known to cause explosions, authorities have reported previously.
Investigators seized 85 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of about $160,000, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Deputies also found about $2,900 in cash inside the home.
The resident, Arcadio Aguilar Maldonado, 55, was not home at the time of the raid and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Shelton said investigators believe Maldonado was also stealing utilities from the Turlock Irrigation District.
“These types of cases are about improving the quality of life in neighborhoods,” Shelton said. “We also know that a good portion of our homicide cases are drug-related, so these types of tips that come from the community, actually could be saving lives, too.”