A man who was caught operating a massive illegal marijuana grow on a California ranch learned a really tough lesson about what happens when a rancher’s patience is spent.
Rafael Andrade-Perez was the unlucky pupil. When a Fresno County rancher discovered Andrade-Perez on his property, he chased him down, hog tied and blindfolded him, then threw him into a horse trailer and drove him out to the highway for the Sheriff to pick up. Andrade-Perez’s two accomplices were able to get away.
The rancher, whom we’ll refer to as Wade (RedState is not disclosing his identity to protect his and his family’s safety), was gathering cows Friday with his neighbor and his two teenage daughters when the incident took place. They had gathered most of the cows but had one small stretch left to check. He sent his daughter to check it, and she quickly returned with tears in her eyes, saying, “Daddy, I found a fresh pipeline.” The pipeline, which consisted of a black hose in a small trench, indicated yet another illegal marijuana grow was taking place on their ranch.
Wade had his daughter show them the pipeline, which, sure enough, was fresh. Wade and his neighbor, Buddy, left the girls with the cows and took off to investigate. The two stumbled upon an encampment and saw three guys in the bushes, planting marijuana seedlings. Buddy looked at Wade and said, “Well, hell, let’s go rope one.”
Riding their horses at a full gallop, the two approached the intruders. Speaking exclusively with RedState, Wade describes what happened next:
“All three took off running down a little draw. Buddy dives off his horse and goes to chasing one. I followed on the horse. When I got there Buddy had tackled him in the gully and he hollers, ‘I got mine.’ I had my cowboy chain. We tied his hands behind his back. As we walked him out of the gully, we heard him say something. We looked up and one of the other guys was 75 to 100 yards away. He had a rifle, looked like a .22, took a shot, and we heard the bullet go over our heads.
“As soon as he fired, he spun around and disappeared.
“We just kept walking up the hill with him, but blindfolded the guy with a shirt.
“We walked him down to the road and laid him down in the road. I waited there while Buddy went to get the horse trailer and a cell phone because we didn’t want to take the guy to the house. When Buddy came back, we threw the guy in the trailer, drove down the road to the store, and waited for the law. The Sheriff handcuffed the guy and took him in.”
The ranch was then swarmed by law enforcement agents on the ground and in the air.
“Me and Buddy took them up to where the grow was and they choppered narc guys in. They found a pile of seedlings, around 9,700 baby plants.
“While they were up there one of the narc guys found a bottle of real pink stuff, and it ended up being some stuff called carbofuran. They said that it’s a pesticide and that it’s illegal in the United States and that if you get any of it on your skin it will kill you.
“The encampment was set up with two tents and it looks like they had just gotten a food delivery. They had meat that was still cold, lots of produce, dried shrimp, a cook stove, propane tank, pots and pans, toilet paper.”
Rafael Andrade-Perez was charged with cultivation of marijuana and trespassing and spent two hours and two minutes in jail before being released on bond. RedState has submitted a FOIA request to USCIS inquiring about Andrade-Perez’s immigration status but has not received a response at press time.
An Ongoing Danger
Wade says these illegal grows are a problem every year, and local law enforcement agencies don’t have the resources to go after all of them. They usually wait until later in the growing season, when it’s too late for the squatters to just start over on another ranch. While that strategy makes sense from a resource allocation standpoint, it puts the safety of local families like Wade’s – a family with two teenage daughters – at risk.
Illegal weed farms are a major problem throughout California, and federal and state authorities say the vast majority of them are tied with Mexican drug cartels and staffed by illegal aliens (80 percent of workers arrested at grows are illegal aliens). As recently as 2012, officers rarely encountered guns while raiding illegal grows. Today, investigators encounter guns – mostly automatic weapons – at nearly every site.
“This is not Ma and Pa growing out in the hills. These are literally drug trafficking organizations that are there to protect their investment.”
And protect they do. With 9,700 marijuana seedlings, the street value of the end product Andrade-Perez and his accomplices were planting on Wade’s land would be north of $20 million. So, naturally, when the illegal growers are confronted by the legal owners of the land, they’re unafraid and confrontational. Wade shared a few experiences his family has had in the past couple of years.
“A few years ago my wife and children were going to check water on the ranch. They pulled up to one of our ponds and there was a big guy standing there by a running pump. He squared up and tried to intimidate the family. We called the law and they came out; there were 3,000 plants in that grow.
“Last fall my son and I were hunting and we came walking right into a camp, so we turned around and left. We called the law and they were really busy…so we got some cowboys, and we went up there. He just blew out of it like a bear out of a brush pile, straight down the mountain, and was gone. We pulled the plants and destroyed them.”
Wade’s daughter was probably only 20 yards from the encampment when she turned around, he said. As a ranch family, Wade and his wife have always taught their kids about the dangers they should be aware of, including the brutal truth of what would happen if illegal growers captured one of his daughters.
“Just thinking about my little girl and thinking about the horrible things they could do to her —
“They’re on my land and they’re not even Americans. It’s not like it’s the neighbor kids down the road. It’s actually people that aren’t even supposed to be here.”
Wade said that from the illegal growers’ encampment, they could see his house, Buddy’s house, and another neighbor’s house. Knowing that he had two teenage daughters there that could be watched or tracked at any moment was terrifying, he added.
Destroying Farm and Ranch Land
About that pink liquid, carbofuran? Mourad Gabriel, a wildlife pathologist who runs the Integral Ecology Research Center, told Newsweek that he “estimates that criminal organizations are pouring 14,000 pounds of rodenticide and 750,000 pounds of water-soluble chemical fertilizers into the soil on government-protected land every year.”
These toxic chemicals are also killing wildlife.
“[Investigators have] also found the crumpled, poisoned bodies of bears, deer, foxes, rodents and at-risk species like mountain lions. One of the chemicals killing these animals: carbofuran, a pesticide that’s illegal to use on crops in the United States, though still available for purchase online…“Just a drop is sufficient to kill an adult human.”
During California’s years of drought, Central Valley farmers and ranchers were subject to water rationing. Illegal growers siphon water from the farms and ranches they invade, which further harms the legal owners.
While Wade said that chasing the illegal growers was “more fun than chasing cows,” he and Buddy and the rest of their neighbors are fed up with this ongoing and growing problem.
“Being shot at by foreign nationals while we’re on our property is unbelievable. We’re American citizens, raising cows, not making much money, paying taxes, raising our families, and they’re coming in and stealing our water, poisoning our land, and then shooting at us.”
And he has a word of caution for the illegal growers.
“[In our community] we all watch out for each other. We all pack guns. We’re all on the lookout.”
It’s important to note that Fresno, in California’s San Joaquin Valley, is nearly 400 miles from the Mexican border. It’s not a border town. Wade believes that the problems that they’re dealing with – drug-running armed cartel members who pose a persistent danger to their land, livelihood, and safety – demonstrates that there is indeed a national emergency related to our border security and immigration issues. He fully supports the administration’s actions to strengthen border security and step up efforts to find and deport criminal illegal aliens.
“I’m so thankful that we have President Trump. I would follow him into battle.”
It looks like you have, Wade. It looks like you have.