Another pot house raided

This time it's in a remote and wealthy neighborhood.

By JOHN FRANK, Times Staff Writers
Published December 20, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - Sheriff's deputies raided a marijuana grow house in an affluent neighborhood north of Brooksville on Wednesday, finding what they described as a "marijuana factory."

Authorities seized 395 high-quality plants and found evidence of 540 more that were already harvested. Each is valued on the street at $2,000 authorities said.

The plants packed six rooms in the two-story house and left only a small living space in the kitchen. High-powered lights dangled from wires crisscrossing overhead while hoses snaked across the ground. The growers ripped out all the carpet and put reflective covering on the walls.

One of the rooms was dedicated to drying marijuana buds - the first dry room ever discovered in the county, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Richard Nugent called it one of the most sophisticated setups he has ever seen.

"They converted the entire house into a grow operation," he said as he stood outside the home at 15234 Morgan Lane.

Acting on a tip, the SWAT team stormed into the house about noon and arrested a Tampa man inside. Tuan A. Nguyen, 37, is charged with trafficking in marijuana and theft of services.

The home owner, Viet Khac Dinh, arrived home as deputies were dismantling the operation. He tried to drive away in a black Lexus before an alert neighbor pointed him out to deputies. Dinh is charged with principal to trafficking in marijuana and theft of services. The investigation is ongoing and federal authorities also are expected to file charges, officials said.

Nugent said a preliminary investigation indicated that the marijuana was traveling out of the county, and possibly out of the country to Asia.

"I think they are doing a grow and ship" operation," he said.

It's the third major bust of so-called grow houses in Hernando County in the last five weeks.

On Nov. 14, deputies seized about 700 plants from six grow houses in Spring Hill, including Christmas tree-sized marijuana plants in one. Three more homes in Spring Hill were raided Dec. 12 and deputies took another 380 plants.

Authorities said this new bust was much different because of the high level of sophistication, the location and the suspects.

"Mostly it's Cubans and knuckleheads," Nugent said. "But this is the first Vietnamese" operation.

He also pointed to a colorful religious shrine located on the floor just inside the door. Authorities did not know what it represented.

The home is located in a remote, wealthy neighborhood where large houses sit on multiple-acre properties and the roads are paved.

Dinh and Thu Nguyen bought the three-bedroom, three-bath house and the five-acre property in late June for $420,000, according to county property records.

Dan Burns, 42, lives across the street. He looked dumbfounded as he saw deputies pull the marijuana plants from his neighbor's house. "I had no clue," he said. "I would never have thought."

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or 754-6114.

By the Numbers:

395 The number of marijuana plants discovered inside the grow house.

540 The number of marijuana plants that evidence suggests were harvested at the grow house.

$2,000 The street value of each marijuana plant.

Sound Familar? 

Wednesday's bust was the third major discovery of a marijuana grow house in Hernando County in the past five weeks. The others:

Nov. 14: Deputies seized 700 plants from six grow houses in Spring Hill.

Dec. 12: Deputies seize 380 plants from three grow houses in Spring Hill.