One Year, 26 Arrests, 60 Thousand Pot Plants

Federal prosecutors announced Thursday the results of a yearlong investigation targeting the Marijuana trade in Shasta and Trinity Counties. "Operation Safe Counties" was conducted in cooperation with the sheriff's offices of both counties. The various cases resulted in 16 people facing federal charges, and another 10 charged by the Shasta County D.A.'s Office. Most of the cases involve growing pot on federal lands, some by Mexican nationals and some by U.S. citizens. Salvador Varelas was arrested in June of last year in the Big Bar Area of Trinity County, where he was growing nearly 29-Thousand plants and irrigating them with water diverted from a creek. The operation also led to busts on private property. 531 plants were reportedly spotted from the air at the Palo Cedro home of John Leithmann last year. Some of the plants were freakishly large, and another 73 plants were found growing inside. When that bust was done, Eric and Mark Cop were there apparently helping. A subsequent search of Mark Cop's home led to the alleged discovery of 108 plants. Another case involves John and Kelsey Lane, who were allegedly growing a large amount of Medical Marijuana in a warehouse and home in Anderson, and selling it at a dispensary on Churn Creek Road in Redding. A total of nearly 60-Thousand plants were seized from the various defendants, along with more than 21-Hundred pounds of processed Marijuana, 70 firearms and more than One Million Dollars in cash.