District Attorney will hire new lawyer to go after cannabis grow fraud cases

Siskiyou County's District Attorney, Kirk Andrus, looks over paperwork on his desk. He says his office does not have the expertise to prosecute fraud cases, so his office will be hiring a new person to specialize in that area. (News 10/Mike Marut)

As a result of the illegal cannabis grows across Siskiyou County, properties get turned over quickly according to the District Attorney's office as well as Mt. Shasta Vista resident, Darrell Hook.

The DA's office will occasionally get calls regarding real estate fraud because of the high turnover rate. To combat that, the office will be hiring a person to look into fraud cases specifically - in part because of the illegal cannabis grows.

"There are a lot of shenanigans going on," Hook said. "A lot of things like changing property owners names and things like that."

The Siskiyou County District Attorney, J. Kirk Andrus, says these cases don't happen often, but they happen enough that the office needs a person to oversee them.

"When there is an illegal grow, we want to find out who's doing it," Andrus said. "Part of that is who owns the property, or who is subletting the property?"

Andrus's office looked to the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors to approve a $6 fee on any real estate transaction in order to fund the new position.

"We're going to have investigative assistants but we're also going to have attorney specialization in our office so those people can refer cases to us," Andrus said.

Both Hook and Andrus describe the efforts to clean up the illegal cannabis grows and the corresponding fallout as a game.

"It's a shell game!" Hook said.

"It is kind of like playing the whack-a-mole game," Andrus said. "You take a garden here, one pops here and they know our resources are limited. But this gives us more resources, it's something more that we can do."

The problem people now face is who they should see in order report the real estate fraud because there is currently no fraud specialist in the DA's office. Andrus says some will tell law enforcement, who he says don't have the expertise to give proper advice. Law enforcement then refers those people to civil attorneys when the case could have criminal elements and should be handled by the DA's office. Unfortunately, without the proper expertise in the DA's office, the problem becomes a vicious circle.

"If there's not any expertise anywhere, the proper investigative unit is the law enforcement agency," Andrus said. "In the county, that is the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office."

The money raised from the $6 fee on recorded documents will all go towards the specialized position. It cannot fund other projects or positions. Andrus says the new hire will join his office once enough money is raised from the fee.

The funding fee went into effect on Sept. 1st after being approved in August.

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