US seizes pot-growing houses tied to China-based criminals (Source Associated Press) Hundreds of federal and local law enforcement agents have seized roughly 100 Northern California houses purchased with money wired to the United States by a Chinese-based crime organization and used to grow massive amounts of marijuana illegally, authorities said. The raids culminated a months long investigation focusing on dozens of Chinese nationals who bought homes in seven counties. Most of the buyers were in the country legally and were not arrested as authorities investigate if they were indebted to the gang and forced into the work, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said. Much of the pot was shipped to Georgia, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania through Atlanta, Chicago and New York City, he said. The drug is legal in California but requires permits to grow and can’t be sent across state lines. It is still banned by the U.S. government. Black-market pot-growing houses have proliferated in the inland California region where authorities carried out the raids, and many of them were traced to Chinese criminal organizations from the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-2000s, Scott said. The high number of grow houses in the area may be because of low property prices compared with the Bay Area and the state’s large Chinese population, the prosecutor said. Scott called the recent crackdown “a game-changer” that may have cost the criminal organization “hundreds of millions of dollars” in lost drug profits and the money it spent on the homes.
“It hits the criminals right where it counts — in the pocketbook,” he said. Authorities tracked at least 125 wire transfers totaling $6.3 million from Fujian Province in China, all just below the $50,000 limit imposed by the Chinese government.