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$1.2 million in marijuana seized in 3 Port Charlotte grow house busts

Three grow houses were busted in Port Charlotte on Tuesday, leading to the seizure of 351.35 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $1.2 million.

The busts stemmed from another earlier this month, when a home on Bly Avenue was raided and 400 pounds of marijuana seized, according to the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.

On Tuesday, detectives found special air conditioning systems, irrigation equipment, grow lights and chemicals at the three homes, located on Hinton Street, Normandy Drive and Lee Terrace.

Yoanna Garcia, 27, was arrested at the Hinton St. location. Detectives say she had two growing rooms and 114 plants (277.75 pounds of marijuana). She was charged with cultivating marijuana and trafficking in marijuana. Her bond is set at $27,500.

Lanier Lugones Calderon, 24, was arrested at the Normandy Dr. location. He also had two growing rooms, detectives say, with 115 plants and 18 vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana (37.05 pounds). He has been charged with cultivating marijuana, trafficking in marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $28,500.

Martha Lahera Estrada, 43, was arrested at the Lee Terrace location. Detectives found two growing rooms with plants that had been harvested, as well as several plastic bags in the attic that contained dried plants and growing material. More bags were located in a backyard shed with growing material. The dried marijuana plants, stems and clippings seized weighed 36.55 pounds. Estrada is charged with cultivating marijuana and trafficking in marijuana. Bond is set at $27,500.

Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell praised his new Special Investigations Division. "(They're) doing an awesome job and it looks like our grow house investigations are going to get bigger and spread to other jurisdictions."

Prummell said he reorganized the Special Investigations Division after taking office in January. The unit now includes a supervisor of narcotics, members of the Street Crimes Unit, a K9, and use of the Veri-Plate System that scans and records license plates on vehicles.

"We are targeting the worst of the worst," he said.

Prummell said drugs are the root of most crimes in Charlotte County, and with detectives "hitting drugs hard," Charlotte has already seen a decrease in burglary and theft cases.

Anyone with knowledge of illegal drug activity is asked to please call the CCSO Narcotics Unit at 941-575-2157, or Crime Stoppers at 800-780-TIPS (8477).

Article written by posted March 27, 2013

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