9 arrested during DEA hash oil bust

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SAN DIEGO - Nine people, including two brothers and the wife of one of them, were arrested during a San Diego-area crackdown on the hazardous practice of manufacturing hash oil, a strong byproduct of marijuana, authorities announced Wednesday.

The suspects were taken into custody Tuesday at the end of a year-long investigation, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The effort led to the dismantling of a number of butane hash-oil laboratories, which use processes that have caused about 20 explosions and resulting structure fires in the county over the last year, according to the federal agency.

“The people who are using dangerous chemicals to extract hash oil do so without concern for anything other than making a profit,'' said William Sherman, special agent in charge of the DEA's San Diego office.

Arrested during the sweep were Matthew Steven Darby, 29, of El Cajon; Derek James Nepote, 24, of Spring Valley; Chula Vista residents Francine Sarda- Gonzalez, 20, and Mathew Louie Stevenson; and Clint Ellis Calvin, 19, Christopher Crom, 25, James Andrew Crom, 21, David Joel Damaso, 25, and Alexia Samaniego, 25, all of San Diego. Samaniego is married to Christopher Crom.

Investigators seized large quantities of hash oil -- also known on the street as “dabs,'' “earwax'' and “shatter'' -- along with more than $25,000 in cash and an assault rifle, officials said.

Extracting hash oil from marijuana is dangerous due to the use of butane, which is highly flammable, according to federal authorities.

The defendants face a variety of charges, including manufacturing a controlled substance, cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of concentrated cannabis, child endangerment and possession of an illegal firearm.

If convicted, they will face sentences ranging from felony probation to local jail time or state prison terms, according to the DEA.

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