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Seven nabbed in grow-op bust released from custody

Confiscated marijuana, found by RCMP in the Unsworth home. - RCMP Photo
Confiscated marijuana, found by RCMP in the Unsworth home.
— image credit: RCMP Photo

All seven men arrested in last Wednesday’s bust of a grow-op on Unsworth Road have been released, Chilliwack RCMP reported Friday.

The four Mexican nationals among the seven arrested were released into the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency.

However, the outcome for them appears to depend on their status in Canada, which is being reviewed by immigration officials.

Immigration officials contacted by The Progress would not talk about specific cases.

The three Canadians, two 24-year-old men and one 25-year-old man, all from Abbotsford, were released on promises to appear later in court, police said.

However, the early release of all seven suggests that none are key players in the grow-op, but low-level employees like others who have not found harsh penalties before the courts.

Last month, five of the six workers in the second-largest grow-op bust ever made by Chilliwack RCMP were sentenced to what amounted to 12 months of house arrest. The sixth received a slightly longer 18-month sentence because of an earlier marijuana conviction.

The owner of that Nixon Road grow-op, which involved nearly 5,000 marijuana plants, was never found.

The owner of the Unsworth Road property, which was rented out to one of the seven suspects, is known, but he was not arrested by police.

However, he may be liable to a fine under a Chilliwack city bylaw that requires landlords to inspect their rental properties every three months to report illegal activities.

The bylaw also prevents the house from being re-occupied until the owner has paid for a professional cleanup and paid hundreds of dollars more in fees before a re-occupancy permit is issued.

It’s not the first time the house has been used for a grow-op, a Chilliwack RCMP officer confirmed on Friday.

In April, 2004, The Progress reported 13 people were arrested as they harvested marijuana from a grow-op discovered in an Unsworth Road home.

“They were sitting in chairs with scissors,” RCMP Cpl. Sean Sullivan said at the time.

“We interrupted them as they harvested the crop ... getting them ready for retail sales,” he said. “There were clippings everywhere on the floor.”

Police found 833 marijuana plants growing in the basement and in a nearby barn after executing a search warrant on April 7, 2004.

About 600 marijuana plants and 40 lbs of clipped marijuana ready for street sales was found by police last week in the house at 6868 Unsworth Rd.

Police responding to the report - which included an Emergency Response Team, Police Dog Services and the Fraser Valley Traffic Service - were initially stopped by a heavily fortified gate at the entrance to the property.

Once inside, they found reinforced doors and steel bars on the windows.

Seven men fled out the back of the house as the police officers arrived, and a footchase through the surrounding fields began.

However, police had already set up a perimeter along area roads and all seven were soon in custody.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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