By GABRIELLA BOCK | Reporter
A Palisadian business owner has found herself caught up in a maelstrom of criminal accusations and tabloid gossip after her alleged million dollar marijuana operation was uncovered by San Bernardino police on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Officials say Stephanie Smith, 43, is the force behind an enormous illegal grow operation that employed at least eight staff members who cultivated more than 35,000 cannabis plants inside a multi-story San Bernardino warehouse.
Further investigation by the Palisadian-Post revealed that Ms. Smith paid $675,000 cash for the property in 2015 but held no building and safety permits, a fault that would eventually tip off police after a $67,000 per month electric bill was reported to local detectives.
Following the raid, San Bernardino Police Department Lt. Mike Madden said the operation was the “single largest and most sophisticated indoor grow setup” he had ever seen.
Federal investigators raided two other area properties owned by Smith, seizing 18,000 pounds of marijuana in total. Smith was not arrested or charged with any crime, but faces misdemeanor penalties for operating a business without a permit.
The El Medio Bluffs resident was sighted shopping in nearby Brentwood over the weekend, where she faced a swarm of curious reporters dying to know how the well-to-do mother rose to the tabloid title of Southern California’s “Queen Pin.”
Smith reportedly told the British Daily Mail that she ran a “proper business” and planned to obtain a local license as soon as they become available to the public.
Although the state electorate approved the legalization of marijuana in November 2016, business owners in the majority of California jurisdictions, including San Bernardino, cannot apply for commercial licenses and permits until Jan. 1, 2018.
Growers must also register with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, but police say Smith, who was allegedly netting millions of dollars-a-month in profit, did not.
The Palisadian later told reporters she wasn’t concerned about potential charges
And evidently this isn’t the first time Smith has been accused of business malpractice.
Online sources revealed that Smith, who changed her name from Darcy in 2012, was named in a slew of personal injury lawsuits involving cosmetic surgery operations.
She was sentenced to 36 months of probation after being found guilty of violating the California Business and Professions Code.
But as for the pot?
Authorities are still trying to determine what to do with the nine tons of seized cannabis, but could potentially torch the stash a mere 10 days away from it becoming a legal commodity.