Grow operation raided in Union County, deputies say
Nearly 200 marijuana plants, hundreds of thousands of dollars seized
UNION COUNTY, Fla. – Authorities seized nearly 200 marijuana plants and hundreds of thousands of dollars in grow-operation equipment in a southwestern neighborhood subdivision of Union County, deputies said.
The Union County Sheriff's Office said more than $250,000 were seized in other property and equipment that aided the alleged operation. Two arrests have been made so far, deputies said.
An anonymous tip was received by Sheriff Whitehead, who then assigned the case to Union County drug task force investigators. As the surveillance operation began, Whitehead expanded the scope to involve the Drug Enforcement Agency after investigators identified a Cuban connection to South Florida, deputies said.
DEA agents and Union County investigators worked together and obtained a search warrant Tuesday afternoon for the property described as a compound. Deputies said the property and house included a camera system that warned those inside of anyone who arrived on the property.
Sheriff's deputies and DEA agents surrounded the area and made a forced entry into the compound after securing several dogs that were captured by animal control officers, authorities said.
Investigators and agents breached several outbuildings that revealed sophisticated wiring and lighting to grow hundreds of plants for distribution between Lake Butler and South Florida. Deputies said DEA agents confiscated the plants and the lighting system with help from power company officials.
An examination of the power distribution revealed that diverted power was occurring and that the occupants of the operation had illegally stolen nearly a quarter of a million dollars in diverted power, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Investigators determined the operation had been underway since 2011 after the occupants moved into the home. Deputies said investigators also noticed numerous animals, including several goats, other dogs and horses, that were malnourished and required medical attention. The dogs used for guarding the compound were safely removed.
The search uncovered business ledgers, as well as weapons and other implements commonly used in the drug trade, deputies said.
Whitehead said this latest case unfolding is "one of the most significant in recent history and shows the public's determination to work together in protecting our county from the plague of drugs."
Rolando Dopico, 46, and Miladys Delgado, 44, are charged with numerous felonies, including maintaining a grow operation and possession of firearms during commission of a felony.
Deputies said Dopico (pictured above right) and Delgado (pictured below right) are in the Union County jail and will appear in the circuit court this week.
Investigators and agents advise more arrests connected to this case are expected. Deputies said items seized in this recent case include vehicles, weapons, GPS devices and a large seaworthy craft.
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