Four people are in custody, accused of running an illegal drug lab out of trailers on some property near Warner Springs. Inside the trailers, federal agents say they found chemicals that could produce explosive gas clouds in the rural fire-prone community in the foothills east of San Diego.
The search of the property at 30570 Chihuahua Valley Road Thursday occurred 10 days after a butane hash oil lab exploded in Mira Mesa and tore apart a second-story home.
The lab discovered in Warner Springs was approximately 15 times larger than the one linked to the Mira Mesa explosion, Drug Enforcement Administration officials said.
Under a search warrant, agents seized 14 firearms, large quantities of hash oil, hundreds of pounds of processed marijuana and sophisticated laboratory equipment. They said they also found large quantities of butane and allege the suspects were extracting hash oil, refining it and packaging it into vape cartridges.
It's estimated the equipment could produce 25 pounds of hash oil per cycle - an amount that has a street value of approximately $454,000.
The waste produced in the process can contaminate the soil and ground water supply, agents said.
“This was an unpermitted, black-market operation in violation of both federal and state laws,” Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers said in a written statement. “It posed a significant danger of fire and environmental contamination to the community of Warner Springs – a place where families live and wildlife thrives.”
Agents arrested Elsie Fernandez, 30, Bradley Chase Gilmore, 33, Maritza Gutierrez, 30, and Richard Villanueva, 39.
Warner Springs is located approximately 70 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.