Residential Marijuana Grow Houses Now Big Business
LABELLE, FL. -- Attorney General Bill McCollum and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric L. Bradshaw today announced that charges have been filed against 29 Miami-Dade County individuals for conspiring to traffic cannabis and their involvement in a criminal enterprise. The individuals were involved in a drug trafficking ring which operated and maintained 25 marijuana grow houses throughout Palm Beach County and one in Miami-Dade County.
"Marijuana is not just a gateway drug anymore. It is highly potent and increasingly addictive, and these marijuana grow houses are the basis for dangerous criminal activity," said Attorney General McCollum. "The rings who supervise multiple houses and cultivate marijuana for profit are criminal enterprises, and we will target them as such."
Authorities determined that ringleader Miguel Fernandez masterminded the purchase and conversions of at least 26 houses to use as marijuana grow houses. He used straw buyers to make the actual purchase, then recruited others, often recent immigrants, to act as caretakers for the cannabis plants. When the plants were ready for harvest, Fernandez and his lieutenants would package the cannabis and transport it to Miami-Dade County, where he would sell it for eventual delivery to New York. The year-long investigation resulted in the seizure of over $7 million worth
of cannabis, an AK-47 assault rifle, a MAC-10 submachine gun, a pump-action shotgun and numerous handguns, including one with the serial number filed off that was found buried in the backyard of Fernandez's Miami residence.
Fernandez was taken into custody in late February by narcotics agents with the Palm Beach County SheriffSs Office and Florida Highway Patrol troopers. Fernandez was arrested as he was leaving one of his Palm Beach County grow houses. The investigation was conducted by narcotics agents with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office with assistance from the Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Miami-Dade County Police Department and Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer's Office with cooperation
and funding provided by the South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.
Miguel Fernandez faces life in prison if convicted of the charges against him. Arrest warrants have been issued for Fernandez's three drug lieutenants and 25 additional criminal associates who will remain unidentified at this time. Each individual is facing up to 30 years in prison with a three-year minimum mandatory sentence.