Related topics

Sophisticated pot operation busted in Cleveland nets some 300 pounds of weed, 250 plants

April 14, 2018

Sophisticated pot operation busted in Cleveland nets some 300 pounds of weed, 250 plants

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A sophisticated marijuana growing operation raided by police on Friday netted some 250 plants and 300 pounds of harvested marijuana, which investigators valued at about $300,000.

The operation itself likely cost thousands of dollars. Each of the 500 lights used to grow each plant cost $1,400 a piece, police at the scene said. Investigators hauled the seized evidence away in a large city dump truck. They will weigh all of the seized marijuana and plants, which will ultimately determine how charges are filed against the operator.

The operator was arrested during the raid, but his identity has not yet been released. No formal charges have been filed. The man was released from prison after serving time for growing marijuana, officials said.

Fourth District Police Commander Brandon Kutz said they will confer with county and federal prosecutors on the prosecution of the case.

Kutz touted the raid as a win for the beleaguered Fourth District, which encompasses the southeast quadrant of the city and is the the city’s busiest police district. The district is 23 officers short and is staffing patrol units by asking officers from that district and others to work overtime.

“It’s one of the largest busts we’ve seen,” Kutz said. “A lot of stuff has been said about staffing in this district, but the truth is we’re not only able to go out and do patrol, but we’re able to do this kind of stuff too.”

The 2,914 square-foot building on Meech Avenue in the city’s Union-Miles Park neighborhood sits among a series of rundown buildings that house small businesses. It is surrounded by barbed-wire fence with no signage, other than a sign that warns all comers that a dog guards the property.

Clyde Parks, an employee at John’s Used Auto Parts, a salvage yard that sits across the street, said the operator largely kept to himself. He said the man told other business owners that he made and repaired furniture when he moved into the building about a year ago.

Parks, however, said they never heard any sounds coming from the building that would indicate any furniture was being made. He said the operator typically went to the building between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and left in the early morning.

Parks said the neighborhood, which includes a park, often reek of marijuana until later in the day.

“You could smell it everywhere,” Parks said.

Kutz said his officers were given information from another law enforcement agency about the operation on Thursday. Officers went to the building and could smell raw marijuana being blown out of the building by an industrial exhaust system.

They used that information to get a judge to sign off on the raid. The building used about six rooms for different purposes, Kutz said while giving a tour of the building.

The first room housed several dozen new pallets full of expensive lights fixtures still in their boxes, along with large white tubs of fertilized water hooked up to a system that distributed the water to the plants throughout the building. A box of Cheez-Its sat on top of one of the tubs.

A back room housed dozens of smaller plants in the early stages of growth, Kutz said. Another room had hundreds of pounds of harvested marijuana laid out on 15-foot tables to dry. That room also had seeds from plants and smaller pots where some of those seeds were already planted.

The main portion of the building, a wide open space with high ceilings, housed the more fully-grown plants. Most were about 3 feet tall. Capt. John Sotomayor said those plants would grow another three feet before they were harvested.

Sotomayor, who was a former narcotics investigator before becoming a captain, estimated there were between 300-400 pounds of harvested marijuana. Each pound typically fetches about $1,000, he said.

Sotomayor said it appeared they had just harvested the marijuana and that the operator also had recently botched a batch. He said they found dozens of black garbage bags outside filled with ruined marijuana.

“I’m sure this was supplying marijuana all over the city of Cleveland,” Kutz said. 

 To comment on this story, visit Friday’s crime and courts comments page.