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Pot house busted near high school

HILMAR -- Within mere feet of Hilmar High School, narcotics officers discovered a major marijuana-growing operation Monday afternoon in a Klint Drive home and arrested two people on drug cultivation charges.

Neil Compston, commander of the Merced Multi-Agency Narcotics Task Force, said three children in the house were placed with Child Protective Services. About 60 mature marijuana plants and 90 young plants were discovered; the street value ranges between $600,000 and $1 million.

The arrest of Victor Lindo, 26, of Hilmar, and a 17-year-old boy culminated a weeklong investigation. Compston said this is the third drug seizure near the high school in about three months' time. Lindo was to be booked into Merced County Jail and the teen into Merced County Juvenile Hall.

Compston said occupants had modified the home's wiring to avoid paying utility charges and directed power to separate growing rooms equipped with sophisticated lighting systems. Compston said the jury-rigged wiring represents a serious fire hazard and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has been called to investigate its power-theft loss.

Two rooms were devoted to the marijuana growing, one inside the house and the other in the garage. The bathtub in a bathroom was being used to grow immature marijuana plants. Officers also recovered scales, drug packaging materials, two sawed-off shotguns, a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle and a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun, Compston said.

The handgun was lying on top of a television set, accessible to a 5-year-old, 9-year-old and a 6-month-old baby. Lindo and the teen were charged with cultivation of marijuana, child endangerment and possession of marijuana for sale.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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