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Two men are facing charges of illegally cultivating marijuana for sale after officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division raided a storefront on Pico Boulevard west of La Brea Avenue on Sept. 28 and confiscated 269 marijuana plants.
Police had been investigating the location since July based on reports about the suspects bringing equipment such as water tanks, lights, pots and containers associated with cannabis cultivation into the store, said Detective Marla Kiley, with the Wilshire Narcotics Enforcement Detail. After a three-month investigation, detectives determined there was alleged illegal activity occurring and raided the site with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration. They also served search warrants at residences in San Pedro and Torrance belonging to the defendants – Lazaro Garcia, 54, and Alonso Armendariz, 35. In addition to the cannabis plants, authorities recovered two handguns and an undisclosed amount of cash believed to be connected to illegal cannabis sales, police said.
“They had a fake storefront and inside there were 269 small, immature plants,” Kiley said. “It’s a commercial area but there are residences behind it, and there is no licensing for a grow in that area.”
Kiley said the storefront had paper signs on its facade but nothing else indicated the building was occupied. She described Garcia as the “mastermind” behind the operation, and Armendariz as a “caretaker.” Garcia was released on $30,000 bail and is expected to return to court on Jan. 26. Armendariz was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled to be in court on Jan. 25.
Kiley said the two men were allegedly growing cannabis to supply dispensaries. Both men have criminal histories, but she declined to provide further details.
Police in the Wilshire Division are focusing on illegal cannabis growing operations because they are criminal enterprises that present a significant danger to the community, Kiley said. Locations where cannabis is grown are frequently robbed, she added.
“There is a danger of them overloading the electricity and overloading the power supply. There have been numerous fires over the years related to these types of places,” Kiley said. “It’s a criminal enterprise and it can also lead to more serious violent crimes.”
Anyone with information about drug-related crimes in the Wilshire Division is encouraged to call investigators at (213)473-0250.
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