The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office has shut down three illegal marijuana grow operations over the past week, removing almost $5 million worth of marijuana from the streets.
More than 365 pot plants, worth about $1 million on the street, were seized from two grows Monday, along with five weapons and various types of grow equipment, deputies said. Marijuana seized in an Oct. 2 bust from a field in the 7800 block of Colorado 96 was valued at $3.9 million.
"This is another example of people coming from out-of-state to grow marijuana illegally to then sell it on the black market," said Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor. "What's concerning to me is they are infiltrating nearly every corner of our county with this type of illegal activity."
Deputies, along with Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI agents, executed search warrants early Monday at a home in the 1800 block of 58th Lane and a second property in the 5000 block of Quail Road near Midway Ranch.
The 58th Lane residence contained three indoor commercial-type grow operations with a combined 85 plants, deputies said. Jose Alberto Gonzalez, 31; Sergio Luis Martinez Suarez, 44; and Yoandris Bacallao-Ramos, 40, were arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana and conspiracy.
At the Quail Road property, officials said, two large outdoor grows, one of which was fenced in and hidden under a large fabric awning, contained 283 marijuana plants. Deputies arrested Francisco Jose Sanchez, 50, on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and special offender.
The men arrested in both grow operations had connections to Cuba, and deputies said they believe the suspects know each other, and the grow operations are related. The marijuana was grown and processed here, then shipped out of state for sale, authorities said.