2 men arrested in Chowchilla marijuana bust

Sun-Star staffJuly 29, 2013 

— Two men were arrested in Chowchilla on Wednesday during a multi-agency task force investigation into a large marijuana operation.

Ascension Chagollan, 35, and Luis Angel Rojas, 23, were taken into custody during the early morning operation conducted by the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team, known as MADNET, according to Erica Stuart, spokeswoman for the Madera County Sheriff's Office.

Stuart said the operation, which began around 7 a.m. and ended around 2 p.m., targeted three homes in a Chowchilla cul-de-sac. Because the investigation is ongoing, law enforcement didn't disclose the exact location of the homes.

Agents pulled nearly 1,000 marijuana plants (between 3 and 7 feet tall) from four separate outdoor plywood growing operations — all of which were in violation of Madera County's medical marijuana cultivation regulations, according to Stuart.

In addition to the nearly 1,000 plants, agents also seized two weapons and a bindle of methamphetamine. Had the growers been able to harvest the marijuana, Stuart said it would have a street value of about $2 million.

Stuart said agents are investigating whether the growers in the three homes were operating separately, or as a collective.

Chagollan was wanted in Fresno on a $60,000 warrant for assault. He was taken back to Fresno County. Rojas was taken into custody on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a fireman. He's also facing additional charges for being affiliated with a criminal street gang. He was booked into the Madera County Department of Corrections.

Stuart said the homeowners are facing fines for electrical and building code violations discovered by agents with Madera County Code Enforcement. One of the homes didn't have running water, although marijuana plants at the site were lush and just days away from harvest.

The occupants inside the home reportedly used bottled water and jugs of water to cook, drink and bathe, according to law enforcement.

Six narcotic agents assigned to MADNET, seven Madera County sheriff's deputies, eight SWAT personnel and three Madera County code enforcement agents participated in Wednesday's eradication operation.

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