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Police investigating gambling den surprised to find big, illegal cannabis operation next door

Nov 5, 2021
Over the summer, members of the San Jose Police Department’s (SJPD) Burglary Prevention Unit (BPU) identified the illegal gambling operation located within a business in an industrial area o ...

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San Jose police who had been surveilling an underground casino since the summer hit another jackpot recently when they also discovered an illegal cannabis grow-op.

Over the summer, members of the San Jose Police Department’s (SJPD) Burglary Prevention Unit (BPU) identified the illegal gambling operation located within a business in an industrial area of the city.

“The location was a hub for a variety of illegal activities, including gambling, drug dealing and the buying and selling of stolen property,” notes an SJPD statement.

But that discovery was just the first. While executing a search warrant for the gambling den in mid-September, “several occupants fled the location by breaking interior walls and tunnelling into adjacent businesses.”

“People started popping out and coming out of backdoors of an adjacent business,” said police spokesman Sgt. Christian Camarillo, per KPIX 5.

After detaining the suspects, “we did find a series of pathways connecting these two different businesses,” Camarillo added.

In weed-legal California, adults can grow six cannabis plants for personal use, but commercial operations require a state licence. /

As officers retraced the suspects’ route of travel, the police statement notes they happened upon the business housing a massive, illegal indoor marijuana growing operation, although the number of plants was not disclosed.

Obtaining a new search warrant, the police found about 33 pounds (15 kilograms) of cannabis, 25 pounds (11.3 kg) of THC product, two handguns and a loaded high-capacity rifle magazine.

The proprietors of the casino and the grow-op were identified, with both being arrested in late October. Executing search warrants at their homes, BPU detectives and patrol officers recovered an additional 300-plus pounds (136 kg) of marijuana, said to have a street value of US$600,000 ($750,000), US$30,000 ($37,500) in cash, two firearms and ammunition.

John Le, 45, and Mike Le, 36, both of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms, face charges of running an underground casino operation, weapons possession and marijuana sales.

In weed-legal California, those 21 and older can grow six cannabis plants for personal use. But commercial operations require a state licence and many areas do not allow outdoor grows at all, according to the state’s Department of Cannabis Control.

It’s not the first time police were investigating one thing and ended up busting another.

Last year in the U.K., two men were arrested after police investigating a burglary at a commercial building discovered an illegal grow-op. Also last year in Australia, Queensland police were investigating a separate matter when they stumbled upon a medium-sized illegal grow-op that was being guarded by what was believed to be the homeowner’s pet: a carpet python.

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