July 8 (UPI) -- Authorities in Los Angeles County said Wednesday they confiscated more than $1 billion of illegal marijuana, the largest confiscation in the county's history.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters during a press conference that agents seized some 372,000 plants and 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana during a 10-day operation that launched June 8 involving more than 400 personnel from multiple departments.
The estimated street value of illegal product seized equals $1.19 billion dollars, he said.
Agents also seized 65 vehicles, $28,000 in cash and 33 firearms, he said, adding at least 131 people were arrested, 180 animals were rescued and 30 locations were demolished.
The operation was launched in the Antelope Valley where members of drug cartels operate illegal grow houses.
According to authorities, Narcotic Bureau detectives last year had identified 150 illegal outdoor marijuana operating in the Antelope Valley with reconnaissance flights this year identifying more than 500 such operations.
However, the haul on Wednesday was only the result of dismantling 205 of those operations, Villanueva said.
"This was just a down payment," he said. "The beauty of it is they can't hide. We can see them, we're going to come after them. It's hard work but with the resources we're going get to all 100% of them. We got about 40% of them we addressed. We got 60% to go."
Villanueva explained that the sites are responsible for the theft of tons of water while California experiences a draught. Villanueva added that each plant requires 3 gallons of water a day.
"You can see how this is basically sucking the water out of the desert dry, leaving our potato farmers, alfalfa, carrot farmers with out water," he said. "So that definitely had to be an end to this."
The operations have also been linked to other crimes including several homicides as well as armed individuals have threatened those who live in close proximity to their illegal operations.