Marijuana Thieves Unwittingly Targeting Hemp Farms In Fresno County

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) is reporting that local farmers trying to legally grow industrial hemp are being targeted by thieves who seem to think that the plants are marijuana.

According to FCSO, there has been an increase in reports of hemp theft, with three incidents occurring within the past two weeks.

“To the naked eye, it is difficult to distinguish a hemp plant from a marijuana plant,” says FCSO Public Information Officer Tony Botti. “Not only do they look the same in both the juvenile and adult stages, they smell the same and have flowering buds. It’s likely these are the reasons the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has been recently receiving an increased number of reports for hemp thefts.”

At around 7:30 p.m. on September 27, deputies were dispatched to a location near the intersection of E. American Avenue and S. Leonard Avenue in Del Rey where the property owner had approached a couple of people who were loading hemp into their vehicle

One of the suspects pointed a firearm at the property owner before driving away.

Deputies were unable to locate the suspects after searching the area.

On October 4 at around 7:00 p.m., a group of 15 to 20 people, with one in possession of a firearm, arrived at the same property to steal plants.

The group was able to flee the scene before deputies arrived.

At around 7:00 p.m. on October 7, deputies apprehended two men attempting to steal hemp plants from a field on S. Willow Avenue near E. Mountain View Avenue in Selma.

Hemp plants confiscated from Carillo and Garza

Deputies found the suspects, 39-year-old Frank Carillo of Fresno and 51-year-old Abraham Garza of Fresno, in possession of approximately 25 plants which were valued at $5,000.

Both suspects were booked into Fresno County jail on felony charges of grand theft.

Garza also faces a misdemeanor methamphetamine possession charge.

While hemp farmers are required by the Department of Agriculture to post proper signage on their properties, some have opted to put up No Trespassing signs or notices that state that hemp plants with no THC are being grown in the fields and not marijuana.