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Arrest of two ends 3-year drug probe

Local drug agents arrested a Madera man and his wife Wednesday
in connection with the largest marijuana seizure in San Benito
County history.
Local drug agents arrested a Madera man and his wife Wednesday in connection with the largest marijuana seizure in San Benito County history.

Jose DelCarmen Becerra, 46, and his wife, Adelaida Jimenez Becerra, 42, were arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, child endangerment and possession of an assault rifle.

The Becerras’ arrest wrapped up a three-year investigation into Jose Becerra’s suspected connection with the 1999 illegal marijuana farming operation in which state and local agents seized more than 84,000 plants with an estimated street value of more than $170 million and arrested 10 suspects who were tending the garden.

“He’s not the mastermind, but he’s further up the food chain than the other laborers,” UNET Commander Bob Cooke said.

Investigators said Becerra refused to answer questions about who he was allegedly working for because he said he was afraid he’d be killed.

UNET agents, with help from the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team, raided the Becerras’ home Wednesday morning and reportedly seized five pounds of marijuana buds, a scale and other evidence of drug sales, and four rifles, including an assault rifle, Cooke said.

UNET has been investigating Jose Becerra since the massive September 1999 marijuana raid in the Cantua Creek area near the county’s southern border.

“It was real tenacious work by the guys out here,” Cooke said.

Becerra, who works as a farm labor crew leader in the Central Valley, originally came under suspicion when UNET agents were pinpointing the location of the marijuana gardens.

At first, Becerra was believed to be a hunter who was just hiking in the area. Later, agents reported seeing Becerra’s truck on a dirt road making a food drop near Spanish Lake, where several of the marijuana gardens were found, Cooke said.

Investigators said they believe Becerra was acting as a middleman who would recruit laborers to work in the gardens and then supply them with hundreds of pounds of food at a time.

A deputy reportedly once cited Becerra near San Benito Mountain for shooting at doves from his car, Cooke said.

Twice this year, vehicles rented by Becerra were found on San Benito Mountain. In one such discovery, two men were arrested while trying to hide a large food drop.

“Although we couldn’t put Becerra in the gardens, we got enough (evidence) to get a judge in Madera County to sign a search warrant,” Cooke said.

The search warrant led to the raid on the Becerras’ home and their arrest. Becerra and his wife were booked into the Madera County Jail.