More than $4 million in pot seized in Middle Georgia bust

bpurser@macon.comFebruary 20, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Four people are in jail after authorities seized more than 386 marijuana plants valued at $3.86 million at Middle Georgia “grow houses.”

An additional 86.5 pounds of marijuana packaged for resale and valued at $432,500 was also seized in the Feb. 11 bust announced Thursday by authorities.

The drug bust may be one for the record books, said Houston County sheriff’s Capt. Jon Holland, head of investigations. He said he cannot recall one in Houston County that has come close in 40 years or more.

The plants were found at two grow houses in unincorporated Houston County at 338 Northlake Drive and 2617 U.S. 341 S.; one in unincorporated Peach County at 7287 Buckeye Road; and one in unincorporated Crawford County at 1188 Tribble Road.

Grow houses are homes that have been gutted and converted into nurseries with specialized equipment and sophisticated electrical, lighting and cooling systems. The homes look like normal residences on the outside.

“It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” Holland said.

The street value of the plants is based on a calculation used by the GBI crime lab that includes the ability to cut 2 pounds of marijuana off every one of the 386 plants every eight to 10 weeks. Most of the plants were at least 5 feet tall, thick, green and healthy, Holland said.

The two-hour raid culminated hours and hours of surveillance during a four-month investigation by the Houston County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit and the Perry Police Department Narcotics Unit.

Sheriff’s narcotics investigators initiated the probe based in part on tips and asked for Perry’s help after realizing the magnitude of what was involved after only a week of digging into the operation, Holland said.

Authorities only finished processing the crime scenes Thursday, waiting until then to announce the bust, Holland said. Evidence collected is still being processed, he said.

Of the 86.5 pounds of marijuana packaged for resale, 22 pounds were seized at 202 Spring Creek Drive in Perry, along with $218,000 in cash. The four arrested were all living at the Spring Creek Drive home, he said.

The bulk of the packaged marijuana, also referred to as processed marijuana, was found at the U.S. 341 grow house and totaled 62.5 pounds. About two pounds were found at the Northlake grow house.

Also seized at the various locations were six vehicles, an enclosed trailer and a large amount of other property such as TVs, electronics, grow lights and air conditioners, Holland said. The air conditioners were used to keep the grow houses cool from the heat the grow lights generated, he said.

Another residence in the 1100 block of Kenwood Drive in Perry also was searched, but no plants, cash or anything substantial was found, Holland said.

According to a Houston County sheriff’s news release, these people were arrested on the following charges:

• Gilberto Padron-German, 24, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, conspiracy to traffic in marijuana and manufacturing of marijuana;

• Lazaro Padron-Martinez, 37, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, manufacturing of marijuana and trafficking in marijuana;

• Juan Miguel Padron, 45, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana; and

• Rachel Martinez, 22, trafficking in marijuana.

The four are being held at the Houston County jail without bond, the release stated.

The investigation is still underway, and additional arrests are expected, Holland said. The Peach and Crawford sheriff’s offices also assisted in the case. Holland lauded the cooperation among the agencies.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9599.

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