Two Lake County men are accused of keeping a 15-year-old in a toolbox as part of a large marijuana operation.
Ryan Alan Balletto, 30, of Lakeport, and Patrick Steven Pearmain, 24, of Clearlake, are charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute over 1,000 plants of marijuana as well as using a minor in a drug operation, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced Thursday in a news release. Balletto also is charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Both men appeared in front of a judge Thursday for the first time.
According to the criminal complaint, Balletto and Pearmain kept the 15-year-old in a toolbox that was four feet long and two feet tall at an extensive marijuana grow site on land owned by Balletto in Lake County. The teen spent days in the toolbox and was used to process marijuana and was sexually abused, officials said.
Investigators reportedly found 1,300 marijuana plants on the land as well as assault rifles, a helmet, a flak jacket, night vision devices and a gas mask. When they searched Balletto's residence they found more weapons, including multiple sniper rifles, additional assault rifles, shotguns, pistols and ammunition.
If found guilty Balletto and Pearmain could be sentenced to life in prison.