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Sherriffs Snuff Out Huge Grow Ring

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Authorities in Barrow and Jackson counties seized millions of dollars worth of marijuana from six houses with elaborate growing operations that investigators say may be linked to a similar bust in Fayette County.

"This is a huge case," Jackson County sheriff's Maj. David Cochran said Monday. "It's not over with."

Barrow County sheriff's deputies, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, executed search warrants at four houses - two each in Winder and Hoschton.

At the houses, police seized 594 marijuana plants and 35 pounds of packaged marijuana, which investigators say had a street value of more than $2.8 million. Officers also seized $83,911 in cash, five vehicles, various types of cultivation equipment and numerous bank accounts.

Barrow authorities also plan to seize three of the four houses deputies searched, sheriff's officials said.

On Friday, after receiving a tip from Barrow County authorities, Jackson County sheriff's deputies searched two houses - one each in Pendergrass and Jefferson. In the houses, deputies found marijuana plants, pots, chemicals and grow lights, Cochran said.

Cochran estimated the marijuana seized in the two Jackson County houses had a street value of about $2 million.

Barrow County authorities arrested Yaima Caridad Julian-Chapman, 25, and Miguel Angel Martinez-Musa, 42, both of Hoschton. The men were charged with manufacturing marijuana, trafficking marijuana and conspiracy to traffic marijuana. They remain in the Barrow County jail.

Jackson County authorities charged two people - Kety Balmaseba, 33, and Alicides Lopez, 40, both of Jefferson - with trafficking marijuana, Cochran said. The two remain in the Jackson County jail.

Authorities in both Barrow and Jackson counties say the investigation continues and they expect more arrests.

Meanwhile, Hall County authorities on Monday executed a search warrant at a house there, Cochran said.

Last week, Fayette County sheriff's drug agents said a real estate agent and her husband are accused of running a $12 million operation to grow marijuana in the basements of vacant homes.

Blanca Botello, 34, a licensed Realtor, helped close the sale on at least a dozen homes used in the operation, authorities in Fayette County said last week. The Fayette County homes are owned by Cuban nationals who also may be charged, police previously said.

Police said Botello's husband, Merquiades Martinez, 35, owns a hydroponics store in Fayetteville. Hydroponics is a soil-less process of growing plants in water and nutrients.

In addition to charging Botello and her husband, investigators arrested 24 other people on drug-related charges.

Source: Jacksonville.com
Author: TODD DeFEO
Copyright: The Florida Times-Union
Website: Jacksonville.com
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