Over 800 marijuana plants were seized Monday from a major illegal marijuana grow west of Pueblo, removing what law enforcement estimates to be $3.9 million worth of pot.
In the search of the property, the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office also found an "elaborate irrigation system similar to those found in previous illegal outdoor grow operations with ties to the cartel."
The sheriff's office arrested nine people at the grow in the 7800 block of CO 96 West on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana and conspiracy. Eight adults were booked into the Pueblo County Jail. The 16-year-old juvenile male- and the only U.S. Citizen of the nine- was booked into the Pueblo Youth County Services Center.
The sheriff's office originally received a tip about a possible illegal marijuana grow on a 40-acre property. Deputies verified the information and determined that no legal license had been obtained for the property. After repeated attempts to contact the property owner failed, the sheriff's office issued a search warrnat Monday morning. Deputies, detectives, members of the sheriff's office SWAT team and Immigration and Customs Enforcement surrounded the two grow fields. Several people started running from the area, but law enforcement quickly detained all nine of them.
The men found at the grow site all are believed to have connections to Mexico. One of them was a previously deported felon. Deputies are still looking for three others who ran into a nearby wooded area.
After searching the property, law enforcement found 500 pounds of recently harvested and dried marijuana, guns, several make-shift shelters, drying tables, drying lines and packaging materials.
Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor said this grow also was unique because of its location.
"These types of operations have been typically found in isolated locales in our mountains. These suspects are becoming more and more brazen in bringing them closer to the city of Pueblo," Taylor said.