Utility theft leads to discovery of grow house

OKEECHOBEE — A local man was charged with theft of utilities and criminal mischief of utilities on Tuesday after illegal power wires bypassing the meter were reportedly found connected to his residence. During the search of the residence, over 40 pounds of marijuana was discovered.

His bond was set at $2,000.

Osvel T. Cancio Rodriguez

Osvel T. Cancio Rodriguez was arrested Tuesday, July 23, after Glades Electric Company requested a member of law enforcement stand by as a power technician analyzed the power supply located at Rodriguez’s residence, located on Northwest 264th Street.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Detective Javier Gonzalez, Deputy Ryane Ammons and a member of the narcotics task force responded to the address and met with the Glades Electric technician, who reportedly determined the usage was inconsistent with normal usage.

When Special Agent Ronald Coddington of the Drug Enforcement Agency arrived at the home, he reported observing a female run from the residence and jump into a canal filled with water and then be picked up by a red Chevy SUV on the other side. A second member of the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force stopped the vehicle and identified everyone inside. The driver of the vehicle was identified as Leidi M. Rodriguez Perez. The rear seat passenger was identified as Lilian Batista Thauriaux, 28, and she reportedly said she ran because she just came to Florida from Cuba and was scared. The driver was released and Thauriaux was escorted back to the residence.

While Glades Electric was conducting the test, a member of the narcotics task force reportedly observed a male walking north through the yard, away from the residence. Detective Gonzalez translated, due to the language barrier, as the member of the task force identified them as law enforcement. As they stood by with the electric company, they reported smelling a strong odor of marijuana and saw several moth balls in the planted flower bed, which are common attempts to cover the smell of marijuana, he noted. The officers were unable to see through the windows due to the covering on the inside.

Glades Electric was able to trace the illegal power wires into the northeast bedroom, and advised they wished to pursue criminal charges.

A search of the residence uncovered, among other things, 41.5 pounds of harvested marijuana and 26 marijuana plants with active root systems having a total weight of 8.65 pounds.

Perez reportedly said she knew her son was growing marijuana because she could smell it.

The case is still under investigation.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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