DEA task force raids building, finds pot factory
It's likely the largest pot-growing operation ever found here, the DEA says.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Members of the Drug Enforcement Administration task force raided a large-scale marijuana growing operation near Interstate 680 downtown.
The pot plants -- nurtured under grow lights -- were discovered inside an old brick building on the west side of West Avenue, between Marshall Street and Mahoning Avenue. Federal agents were seen Wednesday inside the building, which is visible to motorists using Interstate 680 as it winds toward the city's West Side.
Agents on the scene declined to comment, saying that the area is a crime scene. They prohibited entry into the building.
Agents were back at the site today.
DEA Special Agent Douglas Lamplugh said today that a federal search warrant was used to enter the building. He said no arrests were made, and the investigation continues.
He declined to comment further and referred questions to Bill Dodson, DEA public information officer in Detroit.
Dodson said today that more than 3,850 plants were found in the warehouse at 814 Marshall St. in various stages of growth, from seedlings to mature plants. Thousands of pounds of potting soil were also found.
He said the grow operation had a sophisticated watering, fertilization and heating setup and was spread throughout seven rooms.
"It is the most significant operation in Ohio in several years and I'm not aware of Youngstown ever having a larger one," Dodson said.
The investigation began in December 2003, Dodson said. He said evidence collected will be used to link those responsible to the crime.
Searching other location
Dodson said another 116 marijuana plants were found during a search in Brookfield but the address wasn't immediately available. Another location was being searched today, he said.
The marijuana is very high grade, similar to the kind sold in The Netherlands and California and likely worth $1,500 to $2,000 per pound, a source said, adding that the marijuana being grown is more than needed to supply this area.
A view into the building from West Avenue revealed a truck, air-condition compressors and other equipment. The building has several entrances.
The DEA task force includes agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and police from Salem, Poland Village, Boardman, Youngstown, Canfield, Beaver Township and Warren.