Thousands of plants found in 40 houses

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ATLANTA - Federal authorities announced Tuesday that 25 people have been indicted on charges of operating more than 40 marijuana grow houses in 14 Georgia counties.

According to the indictment, 8,638 plants yielding about one pound of marijuana each and 2,279 pounds of processed marijuana were seized. U.S. Attorney David Nahmias called the operation "as complex a scheme as we have ever seen in Georgia."

"This is pretty clearly an example of organized crime in suburbia," said Jack Killorin, the director of the Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which was also involved in the investigation.

The marijuana was grown hydroponically - an expensive process that uses a nutrient solution instead of soil - usually in unfinished basements retrofitted with elaborate electrical systems needed to siphon off the massive amounts of electricity required. The process yields a plant twice as potent as regular marijuana, valued at about $5,000 per pound.

The investigation began in February after authorities received a tip from Miami that a grow house operation involving Cuban nationals there had moved north to Georgia.

According to the indictment, Merquiades Martinez, 36, of Fayetteville, and Juan Carlos Martin-Lopez, 38, of Loganville, ran the operation. Gerson Carranza, 26, of Monroe, and Blanca Botello, 35, of Fayetteville, were real estate agents who are accused of obtaining the residences that were converted into grow houses.

Ms. Botello also owned a hydroponics business used to purchase and distribute equipment for the grow houses, according to authorities.

The remaining defendants either owned the grow houses - homes costing $300,000 to $500,000, authorities said - or vehicles used to distribute the marijuana, or helped grow or process the drugs. Many of the defendants are related by blood or marriage, and most are legal U.S. residents, authorities said.

The discovery of grow houses in Georgia comes as investigators are increasingly seeing suburban homes in middle-class and well-to-do neighborhoods turned into marijuana farms. A problem for years on the West Coast and in Canada, scores of grow houses are showing up in the South and New England.

Each house could produce a crop of between 300 and 400 plants every 90 days, which works out to about $8 million per year. According to the DEA, more than 400,000 plants with a potential annual value of $6.4 billion were seized from grow houses in the U.S. last year - up from about 270,000 the year before. That is less than 10 percent of the marijuana plant seizures in the U.S.; most pot is grown outdoors on farms and in ditches, backyards and gardens.

Investigators employed tips, surveillance and information from the power company on electricity usage to find the Georgia grow houses, most of which were said to be operating for about two years.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the investigation included Barrow, Butts, Coweta, Fayette, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Newton, Rockdale, and Walton counties.

Comments (44) Add comment
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grimreapa69420
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grimreapa69420 08/15/07 - 04:57 am
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booo let them grow it..its

booo let them grow it..its only illegal because of racism and the fact that the government cannot tax it

dokken36055
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dokken36055 08/15/07 - 06:55 am
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grimreapa how on God's green

grimreapa how on God's green earth can you say this is Racism ,you must listen to the two biggest racist in the world Jackson and so called rev Sharpton

Tater
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Tater 08/15/07 - 07:02 am
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I agree with you grim...only

I agree with you grim...only illegal because the gov can't get their cut.

peonynut
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peonynut 08/15/07 - 07:04 am
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Did anyone notice that they

Did anyone notice that they were mostly Mexican sounding names?

sliique
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sliique 08/15/07 - 07:05 am
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Race has NOTHING to do with

Race has NOTHING to do with it.

Tax? Thats another story.

treerock
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treerock 08/15/07 - 07:12 am
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legalize freedom!

legalize freedom!

TEDDY1
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TEDDY1 08/15/07 - 07:59 am
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smoke out!!!!!!!!!!!!! fire

smoke out!!!!!!!!!!!!! fire it up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if you ain't chokin you ain't tokin

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 08/15/07 - 08:10 am
0
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They were Cubans and were

They were Cubans and were legal residents......it's in the story...................

NicoleKelly
7
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NicoleKelly 08/15/07 - 08:17 am
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Government find something

Government find something else to do!!!!!!!!!!!!! Gee whiz!!!!!!

genbartow
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genbartow 08/15/07 - 08:32 am
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I heard some of the houses

I heard some of the houses were even financed by the U.S. Government - H.U.D.
Big sister government filling all our needs.

proudsoutherner
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proudsoutherner 08/15/07 - 08:33 am
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pot should have been

pot should have been decriminalized decades ago.
it's pretty clear this is a prohibition thing.
my solution ?
put the tax on the user, not the product.
if you want to smoke ghanga, go to the tax office once a year,plop down your tax,get a certicicate to display on your home's front window, and grow your own...say 12 plants maximum,whatever.
what's this accomplish?
police can concentrate on more violent crimes.the pot trade will dry up,you're growing your own.no more traffiking.
tax money for the bureaucrats to spend so they can ease their minds about doing something right for a change.
like tobacco use it will level off...those who want-will,those who don't-won't.
the medical use issue will also be solved.
as far as racism being involved, the harrison tax act of the early thirties, that began prohibition of pot and other drugs, was the direct result of racist horror stories about "drug crazed " blacks,and that is a documented fact.catch the history channel's documentary on illegal drugs,and how they came to be that way.a good balanced look at the whole history of it all.
can i get a witness?/?

wise
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wise 08/15/07 - 08:35 am
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Well it looks like the feds

Well it looks like the feds are going to be smoking good this week.

AsItIs
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AsItIs 08/15/07 - 08:43 am
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legalize pot &

legalize pot & prostitution...pay off the national debt!

LaTwon
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LaTwon 08/15/07 - 09:00 am
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that history channel show

that history channel show said pot was outlawed because of mexicans and cocaine was outlawed because it made black men want white women......... hahahahhahaaa the white mans burden is a heavy load.

iam4him
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iam4him 08/15/07 - 09:02 am
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Proudsoutherner, for once i

Proudsoutherner, for once i agree with you, if you make it legal then there would be no need for such large grown quantities in suburbia or people with hidden compartments that transport marijuana in cars. I would like to put my plants outside next to the tomatoes. There would be those of us who have or liquor cabinets and then those of us who have our Mary Jane humidors.

proudsoutherner
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proudsoutherner 08/15/07 - 09:20 am
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iam4him....i am going through

iam4him....i am going through a self imposed change, i'm trying.i think a sea level song,written by chuck leavell of allman bros. fame said it best-"agonizing re-appraisal"...it's tough ,but my some of my thinking needed tweeking.
as one may or may not know ,pot has yellow flowers,if they are left alone, and the actual flower is delicate and very pretty. some are darker shades as well, you know based on varieties,etc.
la twon, you know all along i thought it was the blond hair...hahahaha.....

NoGoodReason
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NoGoodReason 08/15/07 - 09:57 am
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You will pay more on the

You will pay more on the streets for the govermant grown weed then any other kind out there. Yes our goverment sucks in a lot of ways, but they sure do know how to grow the good stuff... I want to work on uncle Sam's pot farm when I grow up....

NoGoodReason
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NoGoodReason 08/15/07 - 09:59 am
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Sorry Goverment not

Sorry Goverment not Govermant... Guess I need to lay of the weedies in the morning...

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 10:13 am
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I used to think that pot was

I used to think that pot was like alcohol, mainly a social lubricant or relaxant. I don't think that any more. You can have a beer, wine or a mixed drink on a fairly regular basis without evidence of harm, although I wouldn't advise driving after even one. But just a little pot, even secondhand pot smoke, has real effects on a person's memory, among other things. It's not the same kind of drug as alcohol, and the effects, according to recent reports of research, seems to cause permanent changes in a user's brain, after even one exposure. I know this is true. I have many friends who smoked up during college and they have big memory gaps of the periods when they were stoned that my non-toking friends remember clearly. We all were drinkers during that time, and that doesn't seem to have had much impact for those of us who survived being in cars with impaired drivers.

crystalw1102
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crystalw1102 08/15/07 - 10:29 am
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i think that if people would

i think that if people would worry more about the hard crap like cocaine, meth, crack etc....ya know the stuff that makes people crazy, there would be a lot less crazy people in the world! come on people... weed? how freakin long has it been around? and besides people has to make a livin some how cuz everytime we get a pay raise it goes right back to uncle sam times 2!!!! then he raises taxes twice as much..oh and while on the subject, what the hell!!!! why am i paying social security outta every check but yet when it's my turn to draw it, it won't be around!! ok i'm done! mind your own buisness people! gosh

liveandlet...
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liveandlet... 08/15/07 - 11:37 am
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I am so pleased, and quite

I am so pleased, and quite suprised, at the openmindedness shown in the comments this morning. Way to go forward thinkers! Now if we could just get those uptight people who don't understand to finally see the light!

sanders20
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sanders20 08/15/07 - 11:39 am
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legalize weed...peace not

legalize weed...peace not greed

sjgraci
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sjgraci 08/15/07 - 11:58 am
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Legalize It!

Legalize It!

jdcooper
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jdcooper 08/15/07 - 12:50 pm
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It's spelled Government!!!

It's spelled Government!!!

PlayaFace
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PlayaFace 08/15/07 - 01:05 pm
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i hate to make people mad but

i hate to make people mad but the whole reason marijuana was made illegal is because of white people being racist towards blacks back in the 20's. it was on the history channel. it was a two hours show about marijuana in america. white woman said that black men would smoke it and rape them. haha. i'm a white girl so i found it funny.

PlayaFace
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PlayaFace 08/15/07 - 01:10 pm
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it causes no harm... lets all

it causes no harm... lets all be one toke over the line... fun for everyone!.... i wonder when they destroy all the plants they found will they burn it? lets all go stand down stream

cwwjake
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cwwjake 08/15/07 - 01:26 pm
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I don't think anything you

I don't think anything you can grow should be illegal. This isn't a processed drug, it's a plant. You can grow corn and make moonshine but corn cultivation is not illegal.

NoGoodReason
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NoGoodReason 08/15/07 - 01:31 pm
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Sorry JD.....

Sorry JD.....

PlayaFace
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PlayaFace 08/15/07 - 01:31 pm
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but making and distributing

but making and distributing moonshine is

NoGoodReason
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NoGoodReason 08/15/07 - 01:32 pm
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I've been busted by the

I've been busted by the grammer police...

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