Los Angeles: Detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Narcotics Enforcement Detail from Devonshire Area Police Station have uncovered an illicit marijuana cultivation site in popular O’Melveny Park in the San Fernando Valley. One person has been arrested in connection with the operation.
On Thursday, August 12, 2010, 49-year-old West Hills resident Natale Gabriele was arrested after a 10- month investigation that began in November 2009. At that time, detectives contacted the California Air National Guard Condor Squadron for their help locating and photographing rural areas where they believed there were illegal marijuana grow operations. The squadron is equipped with a C-130 aircraft and outfitted with sophisticated photographic equipment.
In April of this year, detectives were told it was possible that a large marijuana grow operation had been discovered. After photographs of the area had been taken, it took a few months for the photographs to be analyzed and verified. In July, detectives hiked into the area and found over a hundred large marijuana plants growing, some towering over ten feet high. The plants were discovered about a mile and a half north of the O’Melveny Park parking lot and approximately 300 yards off of the main hiking trail, making them well hidden from view.
After further investigation, nearly 3,000 additional plants were discovered in the area in various stages of growth. Detectives believe the marijuana had been growing there for at least two years. Those growing the marijuana had created a sophisticated watering system by building a dam to block a stream that ran through the hillside and using irrigation tubing, a battery powered pump and a timer to water the plants. The street value of the plants is estimated at well over $24 million.
Working with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Marijuana Task Force, which specializes in
these types of investigations, a surveillance team began monitoring the location to identify the growers.
On Thursday, August 12, 2010, Gabriele was arrested for possession of marijuana for sale and released
the next day after posting $100,000 bail. Detectives are continuing their investigation, and they expect
more arrests will be made.
Anyone who can provide detectives with information about the marijuana growing operation is asked to contact LAPD Narcotics Enforcement Detectives Eric Bixler, James Williams, or Robert Holcomb at 818-832-1164. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877 LAPD-24- 7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).Tipsters may also contact Crimestoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to www.LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.