Two Arrests In Port LaBelle Drug Grow Operations In Hendry County
LABELLE, FL. -- On Thursday June 11, 2009 Hendry County law enforcement personnel participated in a coordinated statewide law enforcement effort, Operation Eagle Claw, aimed at dismantling suspected hydroponic marijuana grow laboratories throughout the State of Florida.
The Hendry County Sheriff's Office served three separate search warrants, confiscating approximately 320 pounds of marijuana, 178 plants, two firearms, and two arrests with additional arrests anticipated. The street value of the confiscated marijuana is estimated at approximately $1,344,000. All three locations were completely dismantled by law enforcement personnel.
Hendry County deputies searched the residence of 6049 Acorn Circle, in Port LaBelle and confiscated 65 marijuana plants from the indoor marijuana grow house. The new house is owned by CHL Home Builders, Inc. of LaBelle, according to property records.
Neighborhood observers says there are several other suspicious new homes in the area in addition to the ones busted by the HCSO. A typical ploy by marijuana growers is to try to disguise the illegal activities inside an otherwise unoccupied home by putting cheap lawn chairs out on the porch or in the front yard, an old car in the driveway, and often placing children's toys outside as well.
A home at 5005 Pike Lane in Port LaBelle, off Eucalyptus Circle, was searched and 58 plants were confiscated, netting 172.8 pounds of marijuana. The home is owned by CHL Home Builders Inc. also, according to property records.
Deputies arrested 59 year old Roberto Sierra, and 45 year old Rosa Suarez Vazquez. Both parties were charged with Producing Marijuana, Trafficking Marijuana in excess of 25 lbs. or 300 plants or more, and Possession and/or use of Narcotic Equipment, Bond was set at $76,000 each. Both Sierra and Suarez were released on bond the next day on June 12, 2009.
A building located at 6115 Cuba Trail, LaBelle, a remote 40 acre rural agricultural orange grove property north of Sears Road was also the subject of a search warrant. Investigators discovered a sophisticated indoor marijuana cultivation lab nestled deep within the orange grove, 56 plants and approximately 93 pounds of marijuana were seized from the facility. Investigators also seized 2 rifles from the residence believed to be linked to the marijuana grow operation and under the control of Jaime N. Perle of LaBelle and Fort Lauderdale.
The property was purchased by Perle for $935,000 in 2007 and now assessed for $213,000. The property has the benefit of an agricultural exemption for property tax reduction from the Hendry Property Appraisers Office.
Lt. Susan Harrelle says there are still ongoing investigations, and additional arrest are anticipated. Statewide, Operation Eagle Claw snagged 6,828 marijuana plants, 45 firearms, and the arrests of 142 people working at 120 grow houses.
Hendry Sheriff Steve Whidden said his intention is to hit growers where it hurts, in the wallet, not only going after the small time dealers, but the large scale distributors as well.
Since January 2009, the Hendry County Sheriff's Office has dismantled 7 residences and arrested 7 different individuals allegedly involved in growing marijuana.