Update: Seized pot plants valued at over $350,000

OKEECHOBEE — Two men have been arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in a marijuana grow house that was shut down by detectives earlier this week.

Narcotics Task Force detectives raided a suspected marijuana grow house operation Wednesday night, April 20, and seized 117 plants that had an estimated street value of over $350,000. Two men have been arrested in connection with the case and are being held on bonds of $201,000 each. Courtesy photo/OCSO.

Narcotics Task Force detectives raided a suspected marijuana grow house operation Wednesday night, April 20, and seized 117 plants that had an estimated street value of over $350,000. Two men have been arrested in connection with the case and are being held on bonds of $201,000 each. Courtesy photo/OCSO.

After responding to the N.W. 33rd Ave. area Wednesday evening, April 20, due to an animal complaint Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) deputies could not mistake the strong skunk-like odor coming from a home at 2874 N.W. 33rd Ave.

Arrested in connection with that purported operation were Yam B Perera Nunez, 31, N.W. 280th St., Okeechobee, and Jhoan Quiala-Alvarez, 33, S.E. Dixie Highway, Stuart.

Both men are charged with possession of marijuana in excess of 25 pounds and possession of a structure for the purpose of selling/manufacturing a controlled substance (marijuana), which are both felony charges. The men are also facing one misdemeanor count each of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Yam B Perera Nunez

Yam B Perera Nunez

The men are being held in the Okeechobee County Jail on bonds of $201,000 each.

An Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force detective has also upgraded the estimated street value of the 117 pot plants that were seized in the late-night raid.

That detective’s arrest affidavit notes that seized plants had a total weight of 126.75 pounds. “And, if harvested, (the plants) would have a street value of approximately $351,000,” stated the affidavit. “A sample was tested and showed a positive result for the presence of marijuana. All marijuana collected was submitted as evidence.”

Along with the plants, the detectives seized growing equipment that included: timers; grow lights; ballasts; plant bamboo sticks; fans; thermometers; water hoses; and, a watering system.

Task force detectives also seized a power diversion that was located in the home’s ceiling that ran into the attic and into one of the three bedrooms.

Jhoan Quiala-Alvarez

Jhoan Quiala-Alvarez

“The diversion is used in marijuana grow operations to avoid high electric bills, and being noticed by law enforcement,” explained the detective.

All of the seized marijuana plants had active root systems, added the affidavit.

The operation came under suspicion when the deputies caught the unmistakable odor of growing marijuana as they stood in the street — some 30 to 40 feet from the home. The OCSO deputies responded to the area around 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The deputies notified task force detectives, who then submitted a search warrant to a local judge. The judge signed the warrant and by 11:45 p.m. that same night the OCSO Special Response Team was making entry into the three bedroom, two bath home.

Once inside, SRT members secured Nunez and Alvarez.

Task force detectives then searched the home and reportedly found pot plants in nearly every room of the home. Those plants ranged in size from seedlings to 5-foot-tall adult plants, stated OCSO public information officer Michele Bell.

She went on to note that some of the hydroponic plants had already been harvested and packaged for resale.

The detective’s affidavit goes on to point out that suspected marijuana leaves were found “… on the floor throughout the entire residence.”

Arraignment for Nunez and Alvarez has been set for May 19 at 10 a.m.

 

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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