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BPD takes half a million in pot

By Hank Sims, Daily Planet Staff
Friday January 18, 2002

Bust a culmination of several weeks of police surveillance 


Undercover officers from the Berkeley Police Department raided two homes on Wednesday in a multi-city crackdown of an indoor marijuana growing syndicate. 

“This is the biggest bust we’ve had in a while,” said Lt. Allen Yuen of the BPD’s Special Enforcement Unit. 

Yuen said police confiscated more than 350 marijuana plants at both homes, and the plants had an estimated street value of $500,000. 

In addition, police confiscated indoor growing lights, drug literature, three automobiles of recent make, a boat and five ferrets. 

The bust was a culmination of several weeks of undercover police surveillance. Early in the morning, the enforcement unit moved on the first house, which was in Castro Valley. The raid at the Berkeley location – 2811 Eighth St. – occurred later in the afternoon.  

Police arrested Stephen Rios, 34, and Dawn Bazurto, 32, during the raid on the Castro Valley house. 

They have been charged with five counts of marijuana cultivation, two counts of possessing marijuana for distribution and conspiracy to commit the above crimes. 

The two are currently in the Berkeley Jail and may appear in court as early as tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, the case is still being investigated. Lt. Harris of the BPD said that officers are looking into whether Rios and Bazurto may have had additional operations elsewhere in the Bay Area. 

Police said that Rios and Bazurto rented the Eighth Street home and that the owner of the house was not a suspect in the crime. 

On Thursday, the owner – who wished to remain anonymous – said that Rios and Bazurto had been renting the house for about a year, and that he had received numerous complaints from neighbors about the couple.  

He said that the two had initially appeared to be a “nice, clean-cut couple.”  

“When we first interviewed them, we asked them why they were moving from where they were,” he said. “They told us that the landlord was too nosy. I suppose that should have told us something.” 

Later, though, residents of the neighborhood started to call him to say that a dog locked in the house was barking day and night, and no one seemed to be there to take care of it. 

After he called Rios to confront him about the issue, the owner said, the dog disappeared. 

The owner said he was afraid that the house – which he had lived in for 15 years – was ruined. He said he was especially worried about the damage the two ferrets – which are outlawed in the state of California – may have done to his hardwood floors. 

“The ferrets are really the grossest part of this,” he said.  

A neighbor said the couple was rarely seen outside the home, and they rarely said hello or engaged in otherwise neighborly behavior. 

“This is a very friendly block,” the neighbor said. “We have dinner parties and Thanksgiving dinner together, but they never really acknowledged anyone.” 

“They were so unfriendly.” 

Anyone with additional information about this case is asked to call Lt. Yuen or Detective Lindenau of the Special Enforcement Unit at 981-5918.