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Mark Boutwell

WATSONVILLE -- In what authorities called the largest indoor marijuana bust in Santa Cruz County history, two men were arrested and more than 3,600 pot plants were seized Tuesday at a former mushroom farm off Hecker Pass Road, the Santa Cruz County Anti-Crime Team reported.

After an eight-month investigation, officers executed a search warrant at 20 Hecker Pass Road at 8:45 a.m., said Sgt. Eric Montalbo, the team's supervisor.

Mark Wayne Boutwell, 63, and Cecil Douglas Tanner, 67, were arrested on suspicion of marijuana cultivation and possession for sale of marijuana, authorities said.

Tanner owns the farm and had used the business name Ariel Mushrooms, which had been out of operation for years, Montalbo said. The mushroom grow rooms had been converted to marijuana grow rooms, authorities said.

Investigators found 120 pounds of processed marijuana packed for sale, more than 3,600 plants in six grow rooms and tens of thousands of dollars worth of growing equipment, Montalbo said.

Based on the farm raid, agents secured further search warrants for Tanner's home at 70 Magnolia Drive in Watsonville and his business, Tanner Development Co. at 930 Freedom Blvd. in Watsonville.

Tanner Development is a home improvement and real estate title and development firm, according to its website. Tanner Development owns the Hecker Pass and Freedom Boulevard properties, according to county records.

Authorities found documents that showed Tanner paid more than $100,000 in utility bills for the grow operation in the past two years, Montalbo said.


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Tanner listed his occupation as "retired/farmer" on arrest records. He has no criminal record in Santa Cruz County and posted bail Tuesday night.

Investigators also searched Boutwell's home at 24730 Foothill Drive outside Salinas. Authorities said they found 10 pounds of processed marijuana.

Boutwell also posted bail Tuesday night.

A third man, Charles Lettunich, was detained but not arrested at the Hecker Pass property.

Montalbo estimated the total wholesale value of the marijuana seized at $220,000. He said the operation could have yielded $800,000 to $1 million annually.

Montalbo declined to comment on the case Wednesday. The Department of Homeland Security, Monterey County Narcotics Task Force, Watsonville police and Santa Cruz County Auto Theft Task Force participated in the investigation.

The Santa Cruz County Anti Crime Team asked anyone with information about the case to call 831-454-2320.

Sentinel staff writer Jessica M. Pasko and Sentinel copy desk chief Brian Pifer contributed to this report. Follow Sentinel reporter Stephen Baxter on Twitter at Twitter.com/sbaxter_sc