ENCINITAS — Encinitas sheriff’s deputies responding to a commercial burglary alarm earlier this month stumbled upon a much bigger discovery — a suspected illegal marijuana grow operation with nearly 500 plants.
The incident occurred the afternoon of May 8, when deputies responded to a silent alarm at a commercial building in the 300 block of Encinitas Boulevard near Interstate 5. When they arrived, they saw a man outside of an adjacent building, and approached him to ask if he had seen any suspicious activity.
The man, later identified as 25-year-old Travis Knapp, ran away, which prompted a brief foot pursuit, after which police detained him and brought him back to the building where he had been standing.
When deputies searched the building, they made the surprising find: 482 marijuana plants, 20 pounds of processed marijuana in half-pound bags valued at $1,500 each, as well as seed-removal equipment that had yet to be used inside of the space, which had been illegally retrofitted, said Detective Tim Clark, who is investigating the case.
“It was a pretty substantial grow operation,” Clark said. “The suspects had no medical marijuana cards and did not have anything identifying that they were part of a collective or delivery service.
“The suspect basically outed himself by running,” Clark said.
Deputies arrested Knapp, John Feehan, 26, and Danielle Levin, 25, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime, cultivation of more than six marijuana plants and possession of marijuana for sale.
All three were released from jail after posting bail, and pleaded not guilty May 16, according to San Diego County District Attorney Spokeswoman Tanya Sierra.
The trio is due in court again June 9 for a readiness conference, with trial tentatively set for Aug. 7, Sierra said.