DESOTO COUNTY — Two grow-house busts in DeSoto County and one in Hardee County netted almost 6,000 marijuana plants, estimated to have a potential street value of nearly $11 million, according to DeSoto County Sheriff William “Will” Wise.
The Sheriff’s Office learned of the two DeSoto grow houses thanks to a tip from an alert citizen, who saw suspicious plants and also detected their odor, said Maj. Sam Williamson of the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office.
Armed with warrants, deputies arrived at two locations in the Hidden Acres development in northwestern DeSoto County. One home was in the 8800 block of S.W. Otter Trail. Information obtained there led to a second grow house nearby, in the 2900 block of S.W. Armadillo Road.
“There was some marijuana being grown indoors,” Wise said, “but much of it was growing outdoors.” He said the potted plants were in areas where they were partly shielded by natural vegetation.
DCSO had assistance from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, which obtained aerial views of the two areas. From the air, the plants appeared a distinctive bright green, compared with the drier native vegetation in the area.
Deputies arrested Aguedo Diaz, 48, who lived at the Armadillo Road residence and was described as the caretaker. Diaz was charged with possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana and producing marijuana, and was jailed in DeSoto County on $160,000 bond.
DCSO had information indicating the owner of the Armadillo property, Ariel F. Jackson, 42, of Tampa, was in Hillsborough County and an arrest warrant was issued. The Tampa Police Department arrested Jackson late Wednesday on charges of obstructing an officer without violence, manufacture of a controlled substance, trafficking in marijuana 25 pounds to 2,000 pounds, and theft of utilities. He is being held in Hillsborough County Jail on $200,500 bond.
Williamson said the Otter Trail house yielded 4,506 plants (8,850 pounds of marijuana), and the Armadillo road house had 1,319 plants totaling 2,963 pounds. Wise said some of the marijuana was being grown in mobile homes, cargo trailers and a storage shed. Electricity had been stolen from power lines to operate grow lights and massive air-conditioning units.
In addition, information gathered during the bust indicated there was another grow house in Zolfo Springs, across the county line in Hardee. The Hardee County Sheriff’s Office investigated and discovered nearly 2,000 plants growing outdoors at a property on Bronco Drive. HCSO arrested two Cape Coral men — Osvaldo Torna, 39, and Dianko Torres, 36. Both were charged with producing marijuana, trafficking marijuana over 25 pounds, and possession or use of drug equipment. Bond for both was set at $50,500. Close to 2,000 pounds of marijuana was found at the Zolfo Springs location.
In total, Wise said, based on the anticipated yield per plant upon maturity, the fact that some of the plants were a high quality (more potent) “purple” variety, and using U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency cost figures for the street price of marijuana, the two houses in DeSota County held pot crops with an estimated value of almost $11 million.
“That’s a lot of pot off our streets,” Wise said.