Last week special agents with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Drug Enforcement Administration, assisted by other federal and state agencies and the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office, raided a large marijuana grow operation on the Pit River XL Reservation and an allegedly related smaller grow at a former Desert Rose Casino event center on the Alturas Indian Reservation in Modoc County, California. The facilities were capable of producing at least 60,000 plants at a time. Agents seized about 12,000 plants along with 100 pounds of processed marijuana.
Local reports vary with some saying arrests were made and force was used including tasers, these assertions have not been independently confirmed. In a press release on Wednesday the U.S. Attorney’s office stated, “Other than contraband marijuana and items of evidentiary value, no tribal property was seized, and no federal charges are pending.”
The operations were anything but a secret with the massive Pit River grow including 60 greenhouse structures just feet from U.S. Highway 395 about 7 miles northeast of Alturas (pictured). The tribe also informed the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office in March that they planned to start a large scale medical marijuana facility.
The California Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office were also informed of their plans.
In May, the US Attorney’s Office informed the tribe by email that the operation as described was in violation of federal law and prosecutions were possible.
Adding international intrigue to the story it is alleged that a Canadian businessman who sells tobacco products in the U.S. and Germany was the money man behind the operation. In May a confidential informant told federal agents that Jerry Montour was the investor and financier for both marijuana manufacturing operations.
Montour is the CEO of a large Canadian tobacco firm, Grand River Enterprises. The state of New York filed a lawsuit in November seeking $350 million from Ohsweken-based Grand River Enterprises and a related company called Native Wholesale Supply. The companies allegedly “have sold, shipped, and distributed, and continue to sell, ship, and distribute, large quantities (one and a half billion) [of] unstamped and unreported cigarettes into the State of New York as part of a joint venture.”
Montour has had other brushes with the law as well.
The Alturas Rancheria is a small tribe with disputed leadership. There are somewhere between three and seven members. Two of those members are direct descendants of the original Pit River Indians. Siblings Phillip Del Rosa and Wendy Del Rosa each claim leadership of the tribe, and with it, control of proceeds from the tiny roadside Desert Rose Casino. The casino holds about 150 slot machines and has no website. Their FaceBook page was last updated September 1, 2014.
Although federal agents had the operation under surveillance for several months, that sibling rivalry seems to have been the impetus for Wednesday’s raid.
The supporting affidavit for the search warrant relates that Wendy Del Rosa sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office on June 29th claiming to be the tribe’s Chairperson & Secretary/Treasurer, and informing them that her brother (Phillip) was growing marijuana without permission of the tribe, as a private venture that was designed by his lawyer and financed by Montour. She, supposedly speaking for the tribe, asked the federal government to “take all appropriate law enforcement action to close this illegal drug operation and bring those responsible to justice,”
The letter enclosed two purported tribal resolutions: (1) declaring the “Medical Marijuana Program Ordinance” adopted by Phillip Del Rosa and (Alturas Indian Rancheria Vice Chairman Darren) Rose purported on behalf of the tribe as “null and void”; and (2) revoking any authority of Phillip Del Rosa and Rose to act on behalf of the tribe.