Crime - Sacto 911

Rastafarian church leader arrested in crackdown on alleged illegal marijuana growing

The leader of a Rastafarian church that operated a marijuana garden that figured in the Aug. 1 shooting of two Yuba County sheriff’s deputies was among 18 people arrested Tuesday when the Sheriff’s Office served search warrants at 12 alleged illegal marijuana growing sites in Yuba and Sacramento counties.

Heidi Grossman-Lepp, 46, was booked into Sacramento County Jail on suspicion of conspiracy, producing or cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, according to a Yuba County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Approximately $21,000 in cash, 1,500 marijuana plants, more than five pounds of processed marijuana and eight guns were seized during the searches, the sheriff’s office reported.

Grossman-Lepp contacted the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 1 to report that 33-year-old Mark Anthony Sanchez, who worked as a caretaker at the church’s marijuana garden in rural Yuba County, had become violent with another church member.

When deputies arrived at the 9000 block of Marysville Road, they chased Sanchez to a nearby home. The deputies were fired upon when they entered the home and they shot back at Sanchez, Sheriff Steve Durfor told reporters the day of the shooting.

Sanchez died of his injuries. The officers survived. One was shot at least twice in the pelvic area and the other was struck in the arm.

The Yuba County Sheriff’s Office was assisted Tuesday by various law enforcement teams including the Yuba City Police Department, Yuba Sutter Net 5 Task Force, the Sacramento High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California State Water Board, and Butte, Nevada and Colusa counties, according to the news release.

The 12 targeted sites are believed to have common ties that remain under investigation, according to the news release. They locations andthose arrested were identified as:

  • 9000 block of Marysville Road in Oregon House. Arrested were Tania O’Denia Richards, 37, Sheldon O. Dushing, 25, Jevaughn K, Bennett, 25, Dante Jones, 34, Omar J. Bradshaw, 37, and Delroy F. Rhoden, 32.
  • 10400 blockof Township Road in Browns Valley. Arrested was Brandon Lee Muniz, 44.
  • 15000 block of Winther Way in Dobbins.
  • 15000 block of Burch Lane in Brownsville. Arrested were William B. Stonecipher III, 30, and Mark J. Valentine, 53.
  • 6000 block of Potts Trail in Browns Valley. Arrested was Michael J. Cesario, 63.
  • 6000 block of Dantoni Road in Marysville. Arrested in the 6400 block of Dantoni Road was Santiago Ochoa, 69.
  • 12000 block of Regent Way in Oregon House. Arrested wee Marrcus Mollenarro, 66 and Francis Duclos, 67.
  • 9000 block of Mason Way in Dobbins. Arrested were Samuel J. St. Clair, 29, Daniel J. Ward, 23, and Richard Pearson West Sheldon, 24.
  • 13000 block of Rice’s Crossing Way in Oregon House. Arrested was Suzanne R. Brown, 58.
  • 3000 block of Jewett Road in Marysville
  • 2000 block of H Street in Sacramento. Arrested was Heidi Grossman-Lepp, 46.
  • 30th Street in Sacramento.

Those arrested were charged with conspiracy, illegal cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale. Environmental and water violations also were found at the Burch Lane and Township Road addresses in Browns Valley, the news release said.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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