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LAPD Busts Large Marijuana Grow Operation in City Park

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Hikers who stayed on trail at O'Melvany Park in Granada Hills may have never known, but just 300 yards off a main hiking trail about one mile and a half from the parking lot, $24 million worth of marijuana was being cultivated.

Police today announced the arrest of 49-year-old West Hills resident Natale Gabriele after a 10-month investigation that began with aerial photography of suspected grow sites. A tip in April led them to the park when more photos were taken. Then in July LAPD detectives took hike and found a over one hundred marijuana plants growing. Some were over 10 feet high, they said.

Later, around 3,000 more plants were found in the area in various stages of growth. By police estimates, the operation had been going on for at least two years. "Those growing the marijuana had created a sophisticated watering system by building a dam to block a stream that ran through the hillside and using irrigation tubing, a battery powered pump and a timer to water the plants," an LAPD notice said.

A surveillance team was set up with the help of the experienced L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Marijuana Task Force and Gabriele was arrested last Thursday. He posted a $100,000 bail and was released the net day. More arrests are expected to be made.

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The park, located in the Santa Susana Mountains, is the second largest in the city of Los Angeles.