Originally created 07/10/02

Police raid high-tech pot farm



WATKINSVILLE, Ga. - Oconee County sheriff's investigators say they raided a virtual drug farm last weekend where 500 pot plants, psilocybin mushrooms, laughing gas and prescription pills were found in a compound complete with a locked gate and security cameras.

"It was the most advanced thing I had ever seen," said Oconee County Sheriff's Lt. David Kilpatrick, who along with other sheriff's investigators and agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation helped serve a search warrant at 1180 Essex Road early Saturday morning.

The single-story log home, located on about six acres off Colham Ferry Road in southern Oconee County, was the residence of 27-year-old Steven Anthony "Tony" Fortmann, a self-styled club DJ and music promoter.

Mr. Fortmann and three roommates, 27-year-old Rochelle Elena Bauman, 21-year-old William Jack Kilpatrick and 25-year-old Ben James Garland face numerous drug charges from the bust.

Sheriff Scott Berry said the value of the seized marijuana was close to $250,000, based on a projected yield of 110 pounds at $2,400 per pound.

Plants ranged from 15 inches to 7 feet tall, Lt. Kilpatrick said.

The marijuana was grown in a converted barn using an indoor hydroponic system, Lt. Kilpatrick said.

"There wasn't a speck of dirt anywhere," he said.

"It was all pipes, air conditioners, humidifiers, thermometers, lights - the whole works."

In the basement of the house investigators found a growing operation for felony-grade hallucinogenic mushrooms, with about eight quart jars already filled with mushroom spores, Lt. Kilpatrick said.

Two cannisters of nitrous oxide - commonly known as laughing gas - were also seized.

Investigators say at least one of the cannisters was stolen in the burglary of an Oconee County dentist's office 15 months ago.

Also discovered were about 350 bottles of various pills, with as many as 500 pills in each bottle. Many of the drugs, said to be stolen from pharmacies, are highly addictive narcotics, Lt. Kilpatrick said.

A state pharmaceutical investigator was called in to help identify all the drugs, he said.

"We're just now sorting through all of it," Lt. Kilpatrick said.

Investigators also seized an AR-15 assault rifle, 250 rounds of ammunition, a rifle and handguns.

Lt. Kilpatrick said authorities "already had some suspicions of activity there" but didn't have probable cause for a search warrant until an 18-year-old woman came forward last week to report she had been sexually assaulted at the home. Authorities have not charged anyone with a sex crime, pending further investigation, Lt. Kilpatrick said.



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