Teen kept in box

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LAKE COUNTY, California (KCRA) – Federal investigators say a teenager from Lake County, California was held for days at a time in a 4’x2’x2′ toolbox used in a large-scale marijuana operation.

Two men, Ryan Balletto and Patrick Pearmain, are accused of running the drug ring and holding the runaway teen against her will.

Air holes were drilled into the toolbox so the 15-year-old girl could breathe.

Two men, Ryan Balletto and Patrick Pearmain, are accused of running the drug ring and holding the runaway teen against her will.

They face counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 1,000 plants of marijuana, and using a minor in a drug operation.

Balletto and Pearmain kept the girl for weeks at a site owned by Balletto in Lake County, according to a criminal complaint. The pair used the teen to process pot plants, and they sexually abused her, investigators said.

Locals were very surprised by the toolbox allegations.

“Pot’s one thing, but sexual abuse is very bad,” said Jimmy Martinez, a resident who lives near Clear Lake. “That’s absolutely wrong.”

A call from the sheriff’s department in Los Angeles turned the Lake County pot investigation into a search for the missing teen. She has since been found and is now safe, but investigators say there may be additional victims.

Federal officials handed down the charges to Balletto and Pearmain after a months-long investigation.

Officials from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, ICE Homeland Security and the Contraband Smuggling Group found about 1,300 pot plants, and a number of firearms — most of which were loaded — in connection with the case, at the grow site.

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