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Released by: District Attorney
For Immediate Release

Forestville Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Cannabis Operation

Santa Rosa, CA  –  May 17, 2017  –  Defendant Thomas Jan Warren, 63 years old of Forestville, pleaded guilty yesterday in front of the Honorable Judge Dana Simmonds to Manufacturing Concentrated Cannabis using the volatile substance butane, as well as admitting an enhancement that his manufacturing site was less than 300 feet from a school, and a prior conviction for possessing cocaine base with the intent to sell.

District Attorney Ravitch stated, “As this state moves toward legal recognition of recreational cannabis, it is incumbent on producers to understand their responsibilities under the law.  We will continue to aggressively hold those people responsible that put our community and our environment in danger.”

Warren’s illegal operation came to light on the afternoon of July 19, 2016 when the commercial building he leased, located off Piner Road at 3158 Condo Court, caught fire.  At the time the flames broke-out, workers inside the building were actively using butane to make hash oil.  Although the workers tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the fire, they left the building without notifying the Santa Rosa Fire Department.  Subsequently, an employee of the North Valley School, which sat 105 feet away, alerted the fire department about the ongoing structure fire.

Firefighters quickly realized that the building was also the retail office for Warren’s other business, A-1 Top Quality Paints.  Fire personnel made entry and noticed extensive burn damage inside the structure and worked quickly to extinguish the fire.  Firefighters also noticed that the paint store was simply the front room of the large commercial space, with the hash oil operation being hidden behind a false wall and taking up the majority of the building’s 8000 square feet.

Firefighters alerted law enforcement to the presence of a massive stockpile of unused Butane canisters, including a box with 96 unused canisters partially burning behind the wall where firefighters were forcing entry.

Santa Rosa Police Department narcotics officers obtained a search warrant and located 9,600 unused butane canisters, more than 3,000 used butane canisters, 1,500 pounds of marijuana and approximately 54 pounds of processed hash oil, in addition to thousands of other items used exclusively to manufacture hash oil.

Assistant Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said, “The BHO Lab on Condo Court was a classic example of the dangers of illegal operations.  Firefighters responded to what appeared to be a routine fire in a commercial building and quickly realized it was anything but routine.  Thousands of butane canisters sat like ticking time bombs as the firefighters worked to locate and extinguish the fire.  We were very fortunate that we were able to stop the fire before explosions injured or killed people from the school next door, or our firefighters.”

Thomas Warren returns to court for sentencing on July 25, where he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Matt Hubley.  Detective Pat Gillette of the SRPD narcotics division headed the investigation.

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