1 arrested, 93 plants seized during pot raid | TahoeDailyTribune.com

1 arrested, 93 plants seized during pot raid

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily TribuneThis home on Beaver Brae in Christmas Valley has a notice posted in its front window showing it was condemned after a pot bust for having a hazardous electrical installation or modification.

A 30-year-old Christmas Valley man was arrested, and a woman described by authorities as his common-law wife was being sought after the alleged discovery Tuesday of 93 marijuana plants in their home.

Alexander Balestrero was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, felony child endangerment and a felony warrant involving firearm possession, said Jeff Catchings, task force commander for the South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team. The arrest came after SLEDNET agents served a search warrant at the home on Beaver Brae, Catchings said.

The allegation of child endangerment arises from the unsafe living conditions in the home resulting from the marijuana grow, Catchings said. Wiring in the house was unsafe, and in addition, carbon dioxide used for the alleged grow operation created a health hazard, he said.

The Lake Valley Fire Protection District condemned the house after the raid because of the fire hazard, Catchings said.

Authorities were searching Wednesday for Balestrero’s common-law wife, Cynthia Norris, who also lived at the Beaver Brae home and was suspected to be on the run with the couple’s 12-year-old son, Catchings said.

Balestrero remained jailed Wednesday afternoon with bail set at $92,500, according to a sheriff’s department Web site.

The marijuana plants allegedly were being grown in the garage and one of the bedrooms of the three-bedroom home. Catchings estimated the value of the grow at between $35,000 and $40,000.

Catchings said the operation came to the attention of authorities when a deputy driving past with his window open smelled it.

In fact, many raids of marijuana-growing operations result from tips from members of the public, who can smell the plants, Catchings said.

Property owners and managers also are getting into the act, prompted by concerns about the damage the marijuana-growing operations cause to buildings. The damp conditions used for the plants also fosters the growth of black mold, Catchings said.

“The damage to these houses is extraordinary,” Catchings said.

Balestrero told authorities that he had a prescription for medical marijuana, Catchings said, but the number of plants far exceeded that allowed under medical marijuana rules.

Catchings said SLEDNET is not going after legitimate medical-marijuana users.

“We’re not targeting people with a prescription,” he said.

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