A Chinese-funded transnational organized crime group has been purchasing homes in the Sacramento region and converting the houses into marijuana grows, United State prosecutors allege.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, federal agents and local law enforcement searched about 74 homes and two business offices in the Sacramento area. During the operation, they seized approximately 61,050 marijuana plants from the houses, as well as about 200 kilograms of processed marijuana and 15 firearms.
U.S. prosecutors say the crime syndicate used common Sacramento realtors, hard-money lenders and straw buyers to purchase the homes, and the down payments on the houses were primarily financed by wires from Fuijan Province in China. The homes were then converted into large marijuana grows that occupied substantial portions, if not all, of the houses and contained hundreds or thousands of plants.
Later, the pot was distributed to other parts of the country, particularly the Eastern United States, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
An investigation into the case began in 2014, when state and federal agents started looking into indoor marijuana grows in residential neighborhoods throughout the Sacramento area. Agents used utility bills and sophisticated financial analysis to track millions of dollars coming from China to the United States for the purchase of homes.
Federal authorities are now trying to seize the homes through civil asset forfeiture. Prosecutors have filed civil forfeiture actions against more than 100 houses in the Sacramento region, some of which were searched during the two-day operation. The case marks one of the largest residential forfeitures in U.S. history.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the Justice Department is using civil asset forfeiture as a key tool to defund organized crime and weaken criminals and cartels.
“Transnational criminal organizations are a blight on our communities, bringing dangerous drugs to our streets and trying to impose a false sovereignty over our neighborhoods,” Sessions said. “The day I was sworn in as attorney general, President Trump ordered me to make dismantling these organizations a priority, and we are carrying out that order with vigor.”