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LEAD notches two more pot busts

The Yakima County LEAD Narcotics Task Force tallied two more pot busts in what has already become a very busy summer for them.

The task force arrested five men in the 3300 block of Progressive Road between Toppenish and Wapato yesterday, Wednesday, and also arrested three men in a pot bust near Granger this past Monday.

In the Granger bust, LEAD Task Force personnel actually discovered the grow operation in a stand of Russian Olives earlier this summer and have been observing the site ever since, with help from the Washington National Guard and DEA.

Surveillance was being conducted on the site located off State Route 22 near milepost 14 when three suspects were seen entering the grow area.

Arrested were 31-year-old Jose Mario Diaz Castaneda, 27-year-old Salvador Lopez and 33-year-old Gabriel Alvarez Batista, all of Toppenish and all illegal aliens from Mexico.

The task force seized 550 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $500,000. A .45 caliber pistol was also recovered.

The three men were charged with manufacturing a controlled substance and alien in possession of a firearm.

In the bust on Progressive Road, detectives of the LEAD Task Force, assisted by the Washington National Guard, Washington State Patrol, DEA, Yakama Nation Police and the Yakima County Sheriff's Office, went to the residence to investigate a report of a marijuana grow operation.

Upon arrival officers found approximately 15 men inside a building manicuring marijuana. The suspects fled and three were caught immediately, two more were later tracked down and arrested.

A search of the property revealed thousands of cultivated marijuana plants in various stages of processing. Officers also located more than 150 pounds of processed marijuana in a shop and the main residence.

Officers also recovered what is believed to be more than 200 pounds of unprocessed marijuana. The estimated street value of the seized marijuana is $20 million.

The five men were charged with manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

The latest marijuana busts brings the total to seven this year in the Lower Valley.

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