Chester Sheriff busts million dollar pot growing operation

CHESTER, SC (WBTV) – A half mile into the woods off Brown Road in Chester County is where two men were caught tending to marijuana plants.

Sheriff Richard Smith says the farm and all the equipment makes for a estimated $20,000 dollar growing operation.  The weed, if it would've hit the streets, could've brought in approximately $4 million.

Chester Sheriff Richard Smith took WBTV's Trent Faris on a guided tour of the pot farm Monday.

Smith says hunters stumbled on the operation first and reported the find to the Department of Natural resources.  Then deputies came to the farm to set up cameras and wait.  That's when they say they caught Carlos Perez and Siriaco Villa tending their field.

"We weren't going to pull it up right away we were going to sit on it to try and catch them when they came back," said Smith.

Smith says the set up the two men had shows they'd been working the field for weeks.

The camp had a tent set up, covered in camouflage so it couldn't be seen from the air, and a make shift kitchen with food still stacked up, complete with a propane stove.  Smith says the farm had everything the suspected growers would need to be at the site months at a time.

Smith says the operation was just getting started.  The 2,045 marijuana plants found were just seedlings baby pot plants.

Narcotics agents found several bags of potting soil and fertilizer, and a irrigation system that would put most real farmers to shame.

Hoses ran from a nearby creek where the farmers would pump water into a giant bladder used to store water to the irrigate the plants.

Sheriff Smith says he's glad they caught this operation early because in four months the pot would have been on the streets.

"They spent $10 to $20 thousand to sell them (the plants) for $4 million dollars," said Smith.

The Chester Sheriff's office busted a similar operation two years ago, but Smith say because of the elaborate set up he feels the farmers may have been a new group of drug dealers moving into the area. Smith hopes busting the farm sends a message.

"We want people to know there are consequences to be suffered if you try to grow marijuana."

The two suspects were charged with Manufacturing Marijuana are being held in the Chester County Detention Center under a $50,000 surety bond.  The Two men could face up to 25 years in prison.

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