2 arrested in underground grow house raid
Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 11:14 p.m.
An underground, four-room bunker at a Williston property served as the location for a high-grade marijuana growing operation with more than $800,000 in plants, the Levy County Sheriff's Office reported.
Officers arrested Eduardo Morales Rodriguez, 47, and an unidentified woman believed to be in her 30s Monday on multiple felony charges in connection with the operation, including cultivation of marijuana, possession of cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and possession of two or more IDs with different names, according to deputies.
The arrests and the discovery of the marijuana growing operation stemmed from 2005, when deputies received a call about a fire at 3651 NE 140th Ave. At that time, Rodriguez had seven semi cargo containers at the property and was burning insulation in one of the containers.
Rodriguez told officers he was going to bury the containers to make a storm bunker for his family.
Officials got involved and stopped Rodriguez from burning more insulation or burying the containers, said Levy County Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Evan Sullivan. But the incident put Rodriguez and the property under law enforcement's radar.
"We have kept him under surveillance," Sullivan said.
Officers with the Sheriff's Office Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration were back at the home Monday.
Sullivan would not elaborate on why officers went to the residence but said they saw Rodriguez exit a trap door inside a pole barn on the 50-acre property.
Two houses and two pole barns are located on the land, Sullivan said. Hay covered everything in the pole barn where the trap door was located.
"To the eye, you would never have found the hatch," Sullivan said.
Through the trap door, officers found an "elaborate" and "sophisticated" hydroponic, indoor marijuana grow house 10 to 12 feet under the barn, the Sheriff's Office reported.
Wooden stairs led down into the concrete floor bunker that was 30 by 50 feet, fortified with steel beams, had four separate rooms with locked doors, two five-ton air conditioning units and a computer system mounted on the wall. Irrigation pipes fed the plants.
Agents seized 193 plants valued at $868,500.
"This was not your every day plant," Sullivan said. The plants were considered high-grade marijuana, raising their value.
Sullivan said investigators still were trying to determine how long the bunker had been in operation.
However, officers allege Rodriguez had been diverting and stealing power from Central Florida Electric for more than two years to power the growing operation.
An electric company employee told officers a 100-kilowatt diesel generator in use at the bunker weighed 8,000 to 10,000 pounds and could have run five "huge" homes, Sullivan said.
Investigators released a picture of the woman arrested but said they could not immediately identify her because she had three different names on a Florida driver's license and a passport.
Sullivan said officers still were trying to identify the woman late Tuesday as well as confirm information about Rodriguez.
Officers plan to seek federal indictments against both individuals, Sullivan said.
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