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Nosy neighbor ends pot plots
Three grow houses are uncovered and raided after the tip.
By JOHN FRANK, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2007
Hernando County sheriff's deputies remove marijuana plants from a home at 4490 Chamber Court in Spring Hill on Tuesday. Authorities also raided another house on Chamber Court and one on Spring Hill Drive, after a neighbor's tip led to surveillance in the area.
SPRING HILL - Hernando County deputies are crediting a "nosy" neighbor with the tip that helped them raid an elaborate marijuana-growing operation.
A Spring Hill homeowner called authorities after smelling marijuana emanating from a house on Chamber Court off Landover Boulevard.
One grow house led to another and another. Authorities raided two houses on Chamber Court and one on Spring Hill Drive on Tuesday morning, collecting a total of 381 marijuana plants worth an estimated $380,000 and arresting one person.
Carlos L. Valle-Perez, 48, faces charges of cultivating marijuana, grand theft and theft of services, according to an arrest report. He is being held in lieu of a $10,500 bail. The investigation continues, and deputies expect to make more arrests.
This is the second major marijuana growing raid in Spring Hill in as many months.
"This was people definitely becoming aware of what is happening in normal-looking neighborhoods," said Donna Black, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.
Dressed in tactical body armor, deputies threw percussion grenades as they stormed inside 4490 Chamber Court about 9 a.m., pulling Valle-Perez out in his underwear. Inside they found 271 plants growing up to 3 feet high inside two bedrooms and the garage.
Three doors down at 4456 Chamber Court, authorities seized 37 small plants and assorted hydroponic equipment used in a smaller grow operation.
Surveillance of the first house led authorities to another grow house at 9107 Spring Hill Drive. Investigators took 73 plants from that location. The homes at 4456 Chamber Court and 9107 Spring Hill were vacant.
Sgt. James Terry of the sheriff's vice unit said the two houses on Chamber Court had no connection to each other - it was mere coincidence that both grow operations were located so closely together. "This is pretty consistent with what we're seeing across the state," Terry said.
Terry added that the marijuana grown in these houses doesn't end up in Hernando County. Based on authorities' investigation, the drug is likely being hauled to Miami and New York.
John Cleary, 69, lives across the street. He said he rarely saw the neighbors, except when they passed out Halloween candy. "They kept to themselves," he said. "It's just a strange setup in a quiet neighborhood."