Ruthless criminal organizations behind mass murders, assassinations and kidnappings are setting up shop in the area, right under property owners’ noses.
One rancher, who we’ll only call James for his protection, now patrols his property armed and ready for his own drug war.
Somewhere in Calaveras County, he agreed to take a CBS13 photographer, producer and reporter on a hike through his property.
He and his men are all armed, with one serving as lookout.
“That way if we get in trouble, he can get us some help,” James said.
We’re repeatedly warned to keep quiet and be ready to confront a violent marijuana militia willing to do anything to protect their pot.
“You just don’t know if you’re to run into somebody that wants to shoot you or stab you,” the rancher said.
He’s talking about the Mexican drug cartel that investigators say has moved onto his land.
The cartel’s merciless, menacing and brutal drug-related crimes in Mexico have been chronicled in international news reports.
Now they are his neighbor—low-level workers hired by drug lords to grow marijuana on James’ 2,100-acre ranch more than 1,200 miles from the deadly border town of Juarez.
“As soon as we saw that it was a grow, we backed out of here,” he said.
James found the first marijuana grow after discovering tire tracks and footprints. There were a thousand plants up to six feet tall. Calaveras County Sheriff’s investigators got rid of that grow.
But there’s more to the nightmare for James.