Raided Marijuana Facilities on Pit River Land Cultivating Well Above the Limit

Lynn Armitage

Details have emerged from the federal agent-intensive drug raid yesterday on a small Indian Rancheria up in the far northeastern corner of California, in Modoc County. But when it all shakes out, it could be remembered as the most recent volley in a bitter, ongoing family feud between a brother and a sister fighting over control of the five-member federally recognized Alturas Indian Rancheria on Pit River tribal lands, although these details have not yet been confirmed.

According to the search warrant affidavit, federal agents were tipped off by Alturas Rancheria tribal member Wendy Del Rosa that her brother, Phillip Del Rosa, was operating a marijuana manufacturing facility on tribal lands that was neither approved by the rest of the tribe, nor compliant with California law. Furthermore, she asserted in the affidavit, the grow operation was being financed by Jerry Montour, CEO of Grand River Enterprises, a Canadian cigarette manufacturer. Del Rosa had earlier complained to the Modoc County Board of Supervisors that she had been denied access to the event center. The sister asked federal authorities to “take all appropriate law enforcement action to close this illegal drug operation and bring all those responsible to justice.”

In the early-morning hours of July 8, that’s exactly what they did. Special agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with the help of other federal and state agencies, and the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office, raided two sites on Pit River tribal lands – the event center on the XL Ranch, where 40 greenhouses had recently been built, and a growing facility at the Alturas Indian Rancheria, about eight miles east of Alturas.

The six-hour raid resulted in the confiscation of at least 12,000 marijuana plants and over 100 pounds of processed marijuana, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which emphasized that no tribal property was seized, and no federal charges are pending. It states that the raids are part of an ongoing investigation relating to the financing and management of commercial marijuana-cultivation projects.

“Both of the grow operations, which appear to have been operating in conjunction with each other, were well in excess of the locally enacted marijuana cultivation limits applicable to county land,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. “The volume of marijuana that the XL facility alone was capable of producing, estimated at approximately 40,000-60,000 plants, far exceeds any prior known commercial marijuana grow operation anywhere within the 34-county Eastern District.”

According to a report in the Record Searchlight, the Pit River tribe did not have firsthand knowledge of the raid and refused to comment on it. However, Vernon Ward, a tribal councilman, said they would be meeting about the incident today.

Modoc County Undersheriff Ken Richardson, who was assigned to traffic control during the raid, said that drug raids are nothing new to his jurisdiction. “We have a huge marijuana problem up here. We have raids on a weekly basis, sometimes daily,” he said. “But this is the first time I have ever seen anything like this. We have such a good relationship with the tribes in our county. We all grew up together, all played football, basketball and baseball together, and hunted and fished together.”

Richardson said tensions were riding high yesterday between some Pit River tribal members and federal authorities. “Tribal folks were yelling obscenities and stuff. They said they had a legal right to grow marijuana, and evidently the BIA doesn’t think so.”

Richardson also said that other members of the tribe and nearby residents are completely against growing marijuana on tribal lands. “There were a lot of people driving by me, honking horns with their thumbs up, even tribal members. They were laughing and yelling, ‘Good job!’” said the Undersheriff.

Rory Flick, owner of the nearby Rim Rock Motel, said, “… the community doesn’t want it here. There has already been complaints regarding the Super 8 Hotel. A review on Trip Advisor said the room smelled like pot,” Flick said. “It’s very detrimental to the community.”Some arrests were made, according to Richardson, who said about six suspects were brought to his facility, including some tribal members. “But a couple of them were white guys,” he said.

Richardson was not sure how many others were arrested or where they were being held.

Contributing writer Lynn Armitage is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.

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