Late last year, I reported that fentanyl from China kills over 29,000 Americans annually.

Now it appears that China wants to expand its drug-pushing options. A California realtor has been arrested for converting homes into “grow houses” for marijuana with millions from the Asian nation.

Authorities arrested three men — including a real estate agent — and raided seven Southern California homes on Thursday after prosecutors accused the men of using millions wired from China to transform the homes into illegal marijuana grow houses.

The arrests come after a 14-month investigation into the men, whose roughly 1,650 weed plants were seized Thursday morning at grow houses in Chino, Chino Hills and Ontario, the U.S Attorney for the Central District of California said in a news release. Prosecutors said they also seized at least $80,000 in cash raiding the home of the man accused of orchestrating the scheme.

Prosecutors said 37-year-old Lin Li, a real estate agent who goes by Aaron and lives in Chino, was the domestic mastermind of the operation, while 42-year-old Ben Chen of Alhambra tended to the marijuana plants and 44-year-old Jimmy Yu of Pasadena helped as a caretaker.

The case against Li brought by the prosecutors reads like a Chinese version of “Breaking Bad”.

After receiving financing from China, Li “acted as the Realtor for the purchase of (seven residences), which he then converted into illegal marijuana grow houses,” the affidavit alleges. “Li coordinated the purchase of the properties, managed them after purchase, paid their utilities and taxes, and established shell companies for the purpose of managing the properties’ finances.”

Investigators believe Li attempted to distance himself from the conspiracy by using Chen and Yu to manage day-to-day operations, to help with out-of-state distribution of the marijuana, and to return marijuana sale proceeds, according to court papers.

Li also allegedly used bypasses to divert electricity directly from power lines, thus stealing power from the utilities, hiding the grow houses’ high power usage from law enforcement, and creating fire risks in neighborhoods.

China might be pre-planning to fill an impending void in a new market, as the incipient legalized cannabis industry in the Golden State appears to be facing an extinction-level event because of all the regulatory complications imposed by Sacramento.

Once, the cannabis industry was poised to become a multibillion-dollar industry in California. Now, it could be heading for what its advocates call an “extinction event.”

An estimated 10,000 marijuana growers could lose their licenses in the coming months if California lawmakers fail to pass a bill designed to grant them an extension, according to Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who has sponsored Senate Bill 67.

“The bottom line is this: This bill is going to protect thousands of cannabis farmers, in particular, who did the right thing and applied for a state license after the passage of Prop. 64 but their temporary license is about to expire,” McGuire said in a hearing on his bill.

Under Proposition 64, California regulatory agencies were authorized to grant cannabis businesses a temporary license, good for 120 days and eligible for a 90-day extension. In the event of unanticipated delays in becoming compliant with the California Environmental Quality Act, a temporary license holder also could apply for a one-year provisional license.


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