SNELLING -- Four people were arrested and 170 mature marijuana plants worth $500,000 were discovered Monday afternoon in blackberry bushes near a lagoon, according to Sgt. Jim Pacheco, a member of the Merced Multiagency Narcotics Task Force.
Pacheco, with the Merced County Sheriff's Department, said officers received anonymous tips about the marijuana-growing operation and observed two people get into a truck with two other individuals at Cox Ferry and Turlock roads in the Snelling area.
Officers said one of the men had a loaded 9-mm semiautomatic handgun on him.
The men were harvesting buds from the marijuana plants, which were all about 5 feet tall, Pacheco said.
Oscar Ruiz, 31, of Keyes, and Daniel Delacruz, 26, Kenneth Hogan, 42, and Luis Herrera, 42, all of Ceres, were arrested about 1:30 p.m. and booked into Merced County Jail.
Ruiz' bail is $57,000 and bail for Delacruz and Hogan is $5,500 each, according to a correctional official. Herrera posted $55,000 bond and was released.
All were charged with trespassing and cultivation of marijuana; Herrera also was charged with possession of a concealed firearm, Pacheco said.