23,000 marijuana plants discovered in Coarsegold

Four men are behind bars after be caught cultivating marijuana on both private and public land located off Highway 41 in Coarsegold of Eastern Madera County.

1. Angel De Jesus Campos Cruz, aka Angel Campos-Cruz, 20,2. Juan Alberto Lozano, 24, 3. Jesus Sanchez Madriz 36 4. Gustavo Cesar Zapien, aka Gustavo Zapin, 23,

On Thursday, March 27, agents with the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET) served a search warrant at a residence, situated on more than 53 acres of private land.

They discovered an immense marijuana operation that stretched from that 53+ acre parcel to an adjoining 69 acre parcel of public land (Bureau of Land Management land) in the area of Coarsegold.

Agents eradicated more than 22 thousand plants on BLM land and nearly 600 fully budded plants were pulled from an indoor grow near the residence. In all agents located four plots – all tied to the same illegal marijuana growing operation.

Agents say the growers were in the process of expanding the size of their marijuana operation when law enforcement arrived.

In addition to the plants, a fully loaded 12-gauge shotgun was recovered, including several rounds of ammunition seized from the outdoor garden.

The exact location of the illegal marijuana operation cannot be released because the investigation is ongoing.Today’s mission took several hours to complete because agents first had to chase down several subjects who fled the property when they pulled in.

Two growers ran from a trailer at the residence, and eventually were caught by Fish & Wildlife K9s. The other two suspects were apprehended in another trailer located near an indoor growing operation.

One of the suspects, (Gustavo Cesar Zapien), a United States citizen, told agents he that he was only there because he needed a job, but wasn’t told what the job would be. When asked if he had ever been arrested before, he reportedly lowered his head and said yes. When asked why he had been arrested, he meekly said, “Cultivation.” Records show he was scheduled to appear in court next week in Northern California on his probation status for an unrelated narcotics case.

Zapien, who claims to be homeless, was booked into Madera County Department of Corrections for cultivation, resisting arrest, being a felon in possession of a weapon and being armed in the commission of a felony. His bail has been set at half a million dollars.

The other three suspects, who are all Mexican Nationals, were also booked on a number of narcotic charges. They remain jailed without bail -- each on an immigration hold.Madera County’s SWAT Unit, Department of Fish & Wildlife, California Department of Justice, Bureau of Land Management, Sheriff John Anderson and detectives with the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Investigative Unit assisted MADNET in today’s marijuana eradication operation.

—Madera County Sheriff’s Office