News Release
Date: September 24, 2010
Contact: Rich Isaacson
Number: (313) 234-4310

11 Mexican Nationals Arrested in huge
Outdoor Marijuana Operation inOhio

DEA, BCI and Local Law Enforcement Seize Thousands of plants in two Counties

SEP 24 -- (COLUMBUS, Ohio) — A crew of 11 Mexican nationals, including the alleged ringleader, were arrested yesterday as the result of a three-month-long investigation into outdoor marijuana megafarms. More than 2,500 marijuana plants were seized from these massive outdoor grow operations. Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso made the announcement today.

“It’s rare for investigators to make arrests in these kinds of marijuana growing operations, and to have arrested 11 individuals surprised even the most seasoned of investigators,” said Attorney General Cordray. “I cannot overemphasize the importance of successfully and safely arresting the alleged ringleader of this operation and his crew. It could be instrumental to further understanding and shutting down this cancerous practice that has been spreading to Ohio.”

Logan County Sheriff Andrew Smith; Muskingum County Sheriff Matthew Lutz; Kenneth L. Parker, Drug Task Force Chief, U.S. Attorney's Office, and Tom Harter, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations joined Attorney General Cordray and DEA’s Corso to announce the arrests.

All 11 suspects face charges of conspiracy to cultivate more than 100 marijuana plants, a crime punishable by at least five and up to 40 years in prison if found guilty.

The Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) initiated the investigation into the megafarms after a tip was received in June from two hunters who stumbled upon dozens of marijuana plants being cultivated on an outdoor parcel in a rural area of Logan County near Zanesfield. BCI partnered with the DEA and local authorities to monitor marijuana cultivation activity in that area. They believe the ringleader, based in Columbus, drove his workers to the site to camp for a period of time so they could tend their marijuana crop.

The second marijuana field was located near the town of Adams Mills, next to the Muskingum River, according to Sheriff Lutz. “We had to move the plants out of the area by boat so as not to harm corn crops nearby – that’s how close this operation was to legitimate farm fields.”

Agents from BCI, DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Columbus Division of Police also conducted a search Monday on a Columbus apartment along Clybourne Road believed to be the residence of the alleged ringleader.

These cases will be prosecuted by the office of Carter Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.