From the Press-Enterprise:
A Murrieta man who says $35,000 worth of marijuana plants were stolen during a break-in at his indoor pot farm earlier this year has sued his landlord for negligence and breach of contract, court records show.
Gary J. Hite had been renting the 1,892-square-foot rental unit in a nondescript business park since February and growing the plants for medicinal purposes, the court complaint says. The suit alleges that the burglary was facilitated by the landlord’s failure to secure the neighboring unit after an earlier break-in at the 41725 Elm Street property.
Court documents do not identify a lawyer for the defendant, Hunco Way LLC. Krista Hundley, the property manager, did not respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Hite says the neighboring unit was broken into by “unknown thieves” about May 17, leaving the door damaged and unlocked. Around May 24, the complaint says, Hundley examined the damage from the burglary but did not secure the unit.
On June 7, Hite discovered that burglars entered the open unit and smashed through the drywall into his warehouse-like space. “Having torn through the interior wall, the thieves then tore through the Premises and stole 35 mature marijuana plants,” the complaint says.
Lt. Dennis Vrooman, of the Murrieta Police Department, said that both break-ins were reported to police and that Hite’s operation violated city code. “He was operating illegally,” Vrooman said. Code enforcement officers had issued Hite several thousand dollars in citations for various safety violations, including improper wiring, after a May 13 inspection.
On May 17, the property manager reported signs of a break-in at the unit next to Hite’s, but Vrooman said police never received information that anything had been stolen. Then, on June 7, Hite reported the burglary at his unit.
Hite told police he was operating a marijuana cooperative and that the stolen plants were immature and worth about $800 apiece, according to the police report. The complaint describes them as mature plants worth $1,000 apiece, or $35,000 total.
Police collected evidence at the scene but the case remains open, Vrooman said.
In his lease agreement, filed as an attachment to the court complaint, Hite said he planned to use the space for a carpet-cleaning company.