Little Boxes, Little Boxes — or — Nancy Would Be Proud

In a report vaguely reminiscent of the current plotline on Weeds, the Sacramento Bee is reporting on a recent pot-den bust in a residential neighborhood in southern Sacramento, Elk Grove (I believe some LJ folks live near there). In the past 18 months, 21 houses were purchased on quiet residential streets with names like Tundra Swan Circle and Summer Glen Way. Nobody moved in, but every window was quickly sealed off. Neighbors were mystified, and some notified police. Why? They saw new neighbors that did not actually move in, but only visited briefly at odd hours, keeping their windows tightly covered and failing to put out trash cans week after week. Another tipoff: During the worst heat wave in Sacramento history, their air conditioners weren’t humming.

As a result, over the last two months, police raided each of the 21 homes, finding a total of 14,000 marijuana plants. Over the course of a year, those plants would have produced an estimated $56 million worth of pot. The Bee notes that these home farms are part of a drug operation of unprecedented scope and audacity, linking a crime syndicate with connections in San Francisco’s Chinatown to the suburban neighborhoods of Elk Grove and North Natomas. The half-million-dollar homes were gutted inside and secretly retrofitted with sophisticated gardening systems that required only occasional visits to keep the plants thriving. They were rewired to illicitly siphon electricity from the power grid. Most of the 21 homes were purchased with no money down — through loans and lines of credit, according to property and mortgage records. And 16 of the deals were arranged by one real estate agent with an office in Antioch. According to county records, there are 13 owners of record for the 21 properties; none of the property owners has been charged or even named as a suspect. The activity wasn’t limited to Sacramento County. Last month, police raided another 20 houses in Stockton, turning up 4,600 marijuana plants. Here’s the key line: DEA Agent Taylor said the syndicate likely was counting on apathetic neighbors in newer tracts with lots of turnover.

Of course, folks would have had a good idea of what to look for if they were watching Weeds, as the current plot involves a pot-house in a tract-house neighborhood. And they tell you that television isn’t educational. Next they’ll have you believing that reading LiveJournal doesn’t enhance your work skills.