Authorities in Ventura County fear they might have come across a trend: Teenagers from Mexico forced to tend marijuana crops in Southern California as a means of paying of smugglers who brought them stateside.

According to Associated Press, two teens were recently arrested on suspicion of cultivating pot crops, and at least one, a 16-year-old caught July 27 in Filmore, told them how he ended up there. AP:

He told authorities a smuggler had helped him across the border in Arizona about two weeks earlier, and he was then taken directly to the grow site and forced to work. He was arrested with three older growers


Another suspected crop worker, a 17-year-old Mexican, was arrested in Ojai July 20 but declined to speak to authorities about how he ended up in the green fields.

The prospect of using smuggled teens as indentured crop workers would have some advantages for growers: Besides being out of the loop with the drug kingpins, the youths have nowhere to go:

Narcotics Detective Robert Wagner told AP, “They are kind of stuck. They kind of are just dumped out there.”

LA Weekly