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Welfare fraud suspect buys $1.1 million home, grows illegal pot, Calif. officials say

Authorities in Northern California’s Santa Cruz County shared photos after a search in a welfare fraud investigation revealed an illegal marijuana operation, officials said.
Authorities in Northern California’s Santa Cruz County shared photos after a search in a welfare fraud investigation revealed an illegal marijuana operation, officials said. Santa Cruz County

A welfare recipient in Santa Cruz County recently spent more than $1.1 million to buy a home in the community — despite reporting no income and no assets, local authorities said.

But a raid last week shed new light on the purchase, according to county officials.

Sheriff’s office staff executing a search warrant March 14 at the home in unincorporated Scotts Valley discovered “an unpermitted indoor cannabis cultivation operation” — complete with 115 marijuana plants, $155,038 in cash, 90 pounds of processed weed that was ready to sell, a station used to load vape pens, more than 10 pounds of cannabis resin and 1,100 vape pen cartridges with cannabis concentrate inside, according to a news release from the county.

County officials said sheriff’s staff assigned to the local Cannabis Licensing Office completed the search following a months-long county investigation into the person’s suspected welfare fraud.

Jason Hoppin, a county spokesman, said in an email to McClatchy on Monday that the sheriff’s office has not detained the suspect and that the case is still under investigation. Authorities did not release the suspect’s name because an arrest has not been made.

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Authorities said they discovered more than $150,000 in cash at the home in rural Scotts Valley, California. Santa Cruz County

Investigators found that the welfare fraud suspect had been collecting welfare in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties for more than 10 years, though not in both counties simultaneously, according to county officials.

“Cannabis items were determined to be meant for sale on the unregulated cannabis market,” county officials said in the March 15 news release. “The building was red-tagged by the Planning Department due to unsafe electrical wiring.”

County officials said the investigation will be passed on to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office to consider prosecution.

“The total amount defrauded from various welfare programs is still under investigation,” county officials said in the news release.

Photos from the bust shared by county officials show stacks of money, as well as mason jars and dozens of bags that appear to be stuffed with marijuana.

The Cannabis Licensing Office dismantled the unregulated grow house, county officials said.



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