Agents Raid Pot Farms in Upscale, Suburban California Homes

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Drug agents arrested six key players Tuesday in what they say was a Sacramento-based ring that was growing hundreds of marijuana plants in upscale suburban homes.

Nearly 800 plants were found in a posh, three-level home next to an elementary school in El Dorado Hills, a wealthy neighborhood in the foothills east of Sacramento.

Another 500 were found in a home in Placerville, a Gold Rush-era town 43 miles east of the state capital. Equipment used to grow marijuana plants was found inside a house in Cameron Park, an upscale enclave between El Dorado Hills and Placerville.

"The neighbors here are just shocked because, to me, they look like million dollar homes," said Gordon Taylor, a special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "There doesn't appear to be any community that is safe from these marijuana syndicates."

Taylor said the probe began after authorities found more than 2,000 plants growing in two Placer County homes a year ago.

Federal and local drug agents linked all the indoor grows to a Sacramento organization. Taylor said five of those arrested appear to be related.

The group appears to be separate from a San Francisco-based cartel believed responsible for about two-dozen marijuana houses discovered in the Central Valley last year, he said.

Minh Vinh Le, 31, and Wan Fang Fu, 27, were arrested at the Placerville home and Cuong The Le, 39, at the El Dorado Hills home. Also arrested Tuesday were Tony Quy Le, 50, of Lincoln; Hung The Le, 45, of Elk Grove; and Tien The Le, 39, of Sacramento.

The six were expected to make initial appearances before a federal magistrate on Wednesday, Taylor said. None apparently had attorneys, according to Taylor, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Defender's Office.

Many of the suburban pot homes were discovered in the Central Valley last year after neighbors complained of unkempt lawns or homes with heavily shaded windows.

Taylor said the Sacramento organization appeared to have learned from those mistakes.

"These organizations have modified and made adjustments in the way they operate," he said. "Now the lawns are very well manicured. The landscaping is pristine. They take out the trash on a weekly basis."

Taylor said wiring was rerouted in the El Dorado Hills home to bypass electric meters and power sophisticated growing lights and ventilation equipment.