On Thursday, October 11, 2007, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office received information about two suspected marijuana grow houses in the north Lakeland area. Together, with the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) Task Force, undercover detectives responded simultaneously to both residences: 1425 Hammock Shade Drive in Lakeland off of Old Polk City Road, and 8423 Tocoi Path in Lakeland off of Kathleen Road.
Detectives at the Hammock Shade Drive house located a sophisticated 4-room marijuana grow operation, and 328 mature marijuana plants. Each plant was nearly ready to harvest with a potential to yield approximately one pound of marijuana, at a street value of $5,000 per pound. The total street value from the plants seized is $1.6 Million. Detectives also seized paraphernalia used in grow operations: 26 hoods with lights, 26 ballasts, 2 carbon dioxide generators, 2 four ton A/C systems, and paperwork. The two suspects who were living in the home, Erasmo Espinoza, DOB 12/15/52, and Dunier Garcia, DOB 11/14/81, both of Cuban descent, were arrested and charged with Trafficking in Cannabis (over 300 plants), Cultivation of Cannabis, and Maintaining a Dwelling for Drug Use/Sales.
At 8423 Tocoi Path, detectives recovered marijuana already cultivated in a box in the garage, equipment used in the manufacture of marijuana, such as grow lights, hoods, and ballasts, and paperwork. Detectives seized these items, along with $7,285 in U.S. currency. The house was also illegally wired to receive electricity, another common denominator in grow house operations. Orelvis Calderon, DOB 10/18/67, a Cuban national, was arrested and charged with Conspiracy to Traffick in Cannabis (over 300 plants), Trafficking in Cannabis (over 300 plants), and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
“Here are two more houses within our neighborhoods being used to cultivate illegal drugs,” said Sheriff Grady Judd, “and now three more people are in jail, and we have prevented more drugs from being sold on the street. Keep those calls coming in letting us know what is going on in your area. It’s because of concerned citizens that we are successful in eradicating these drugs from Polk County, and we appreciate your help. Working together, we can make a positive difference.”