Defendant in Marijuana Raid Gets OR

A visiting judge on Tuesday granted 30-year-old Allen Nelson, of Sacramento, release on his own recognizance.  He was arrested on September 22 on a search warrant that was served on County Road 41a, where the deputies collected 498 growing marijuana plants with an estimated value of approximately $750,000.

At that time, Mr. Nelson was charged with cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy, and possession of ammunition by a prohibited person.

Mr. Nelson had filed a declaration in pro per, but the judge declined to hear that declaration at this time.

Deputy DA Larry Eichele indicated that he was not opposing OR but did not understand why it was not initially granted for Mr. Nelson but was for the five others who were arrested in a similar raid that removed 2227 marijuana plants with a value of over $5 million.

Guangyang Bao, 60, of Sacramento, Jian Fang, 54, of Sacramento, Sinh Lieu, 52, of Sacramento, Bobby Lieu, 55, of Sacramento, and Paofu Chen, 34, of Queens, New York, were booked into the Yolo County Jail.

All were charged with felony counts of possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation of marijuana, maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawful drug sales, and conspiracy.

Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt indicated that Mr. Nelson was part of the group of people being “duped” by Heidi Lepp, a minister at the Sugarleaf Rasta Church.  He explained that she’s
the person essentially running this operation up and down the state.

Ms. Lepp was arrested last week on suspicion of conspiracy, producing or cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, and was booked into the Sacramento County Jail.

During those raids in Sacramento and Yuba Counties, $21,000 in cash, 1,500 marijuana plants, more than five pounds of processed marijuana and eight guns were seized during the searches.

Back in August, the church became a focal point for law enforcement when Ms. Lepp contacted the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 1 to report that 33-year-old Mark Anthony Sanchez, who worked as a caretaker at the church’s marijuana garden in rural Yuba County, had become violent with another church member.

When deputies arrived, Mr. Sanchez fired on them, injuring two, and when they returned fire, they hit Mr. Sanchez who later died of his injuries.  The officers suffered injuries, having been hit in the pelvic area and the arm.

Ms. Lepp declined comment to the Vanguard on the latest developments.

However, in a previous statement she indicated, “The above named church members were volunteers and in very good standing with our church and standards. The charges against all are false with police misconduct.”

She writes of Allen Nelson:

“Allen did not have guns nor was the ammunition his. It was the landlord Gunner and I will get a sworn affidavit. They were old shot gun shells in his barn. This was the church that was burnt to the ground by we don’t know who yet. We would like to find out who. Allen’s probation officer even recommended he be let out on OR and the Judge who I am pending federal litigation with, Judge Reed, will not let him out and they are keeping him on lockdown.

“Allen cannot use the phone to call his attorney or his reverend. This is very serious violation of his civil rights and disheartening to know and we are all very scared by this behavior on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office.

“Allen has not been able to call out and they told me at the jail I was lying. That he is in general population and able to call. We spoke to him last night and that is not true. We are very seriously worried about him.

“There was no victim that the court can provide. The county has violated our civil rights, divine rights, 1st, 4th, 6th and 14th amendment rights,” Ms. Lepp writes. “The hate crimes that are taking place on our churches has done significant spiritual harm to us, which has put us at a loss for words.”

Mr. Nelson now has a preliminary hearing schedule for November 7 in Yolo County Superior Court.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Sharla C.

    So she is saying that her religious beliefs excuse her from having to follow local laws?   David, C’mon. Really?  Is she saying that all the sales are exempt from taxes – sales, property, etc – because this is a religious activity too?

    I feel for the guy who was duped, but he involved himself in a criminal enterprise lead by a cult leader, it seems.

    1. David Greenwald

      Hey I just report what she said. It’s not a commentary. There are a number of different situations that have kind of been merged into these cannabis raids.

      1. Sharla C.

        I’m sure that each person has their own story.  Some will invite more sympathy than others.  That is not a reason to allow chaos in this emerging industry in Yolo County.

        1. David Greenwald

          But the question is whether the law enforcement efforts needed high stakes/ profile raids, fabricated felony charges, rather than regulatory actions with fines for non-compliance with zoning ordinances.

      2. Sharla C.

        Sure, but do you know how many people are receiving warnings, notices, hearings, etc over non-permitted businesses, substandard housing, hazardous waste, lack of building permits or health permits, etc on properties and do absolutely nothing to correct the issues?  Not everyone is like you and act responsibly and quickly respond to a notice.  Ask a few more people about what’s happening and don’t just look at the narrowness of the law enforcement action.  There are many, many more non-permitted and illegal operations going on in Yolo County.  There is a lot of money to be made in this industry, but it needs to be controlled so the product coming from Yolo County is reputed to be safe and sustainable.   Maybe you feel that the raids and arrests are unnecessary, but the bigger picture needs to be seen.


        1. Jim Hoch

          ” the letters sent out because they were ambiguous and misleading” What difference would that make? They send mail to people saying “you have won a free ice cream cone” and then arrest them when they show up. Anyone who is growing MJ should be on top of the legal situation.

    2. Tia Will

      So she is saying that her religious beliefs excuse her from having to follow local laws?   David, C’mon. Really? “

      This behavior is certainly not limited to her cult. Our society is embroiled in cases of people who claim that they should be exempt from laws based on their religion. Service to LGBTQ individuals and provision of birth control are two which come readily to mind.

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