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Real estate agent pleads guilty in marijuana farm scheme

Richard Vogel/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A real estate agent who helped Chinese investors buy Southern California homes that were turned into illegal marijuana farms has pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.

Lin Li of Chino entered the plea Monday.

Prosecutors say Li admitted in a plea agreement that between 2013 and 2018, he helped buy nine homes in San Bernardino County and signed false lease documents to hide the true owners.

Court documents say the homes were bought for about $4 million using money from Chinese investors, then turned into marijuana grow houses using electricity stolen from power lines.

Li’s plea agreement said most of the pot was sold in California, Nevada, and New York.

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Prosecutors say the scheme began to unravel in early 2018 when a neighbor complained to law enforcement about an overwhelming smell of marijuana coming from a Chino Hills home where nobody seemed to be living.

Authorities raided the homes and seized more than 4,000 pot plants and more than 90 kilos of processed marijuana.

Li pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture, possess, and distribute at least 1,000 marijuana plants. The charge carries a potential life sentence.

A second man previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and awaits sentencing, while a third is facing trial next year.