Eight people accused of illegally growing marijuana in Tacoma houses as part of a criminal network started laying the groundwork two years ago, records show.
They bought nine homes as early as February 2016 and set them up as grow houses.
The first clue came in the utility bills.
Tacoma Power employees noted their bills were exceptionally high, in some cases 15 times higher than the previous owner’s two-month bill at more than $1,800.
On some of the accounts, power employees wrote notes like “Smells like possible grow operation” and “Customer complied with request to turn off grow lights for my safety today.”
Police learned about the pot operation in April after a neighbor in the 1900 block of East 59th Street called 911 to report a burglary in progress.
The caller told dispatchers a man with his face covered was leaving the house with a pot plant.
An investigation determined two houses on the street were being used as marijuana grows and dismantled them.
Between the two homes, 660 marijuana were found at various stages of growth.
A 53-year-old man returned to one of the houses while police were there and was arrested.
Investigators used real estate records, power records and surveillance to link all nine houses.
On Monday and Tuesday, law enforcement officers from six state and federal agencies served search warrants at the houses
They seized at least 2,500 marijuana plants, 2.7 pounds of packaged weed and nearly $55,000 in cash.
Pierce County prosecutors have charged four men and four women with unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance, unlawful use of a building for drug purposes, money laundering and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver.