Thursday, August 19, 2010

Police, Sheriff’s Dept. Bust Another Plantation

By John Larson

SOCORRO – Officers from the Socorro Police Department and county Sheriff’s office eliminated another large marijuana plantation Wednesday morning in the San Marcial area, south of Socorro.
According to Sheriff Philip Montoya, two men connected to the marijuana operation were arrested. Shannon Martin, 33, of Los Lunas was charged with one count each of trafficking marijuana, cultivation and paraphernalia, and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Vincent Biancardi, 38, of Belen was charged with trafficking, and cultivation and paraphernalia.
“The site was very similar to the previous locations we eradicated,” Montoya said. “There were tents, pumps, piping, and other items that indicated the same kind of operation.”
Chief Deputy Shorty Vaiza, along with Montoya, took part in eradicating the plants Wednesday morning. “There were about 200 plants, up to four feet tall at the site,” he said.
He said the plantation was on a small island on a lake off the main channel of the Rio Grande. The officers approached the site from the east side of the river. “We had to wade through three foot deep water across a channel and then use a rowboat to get to it,” Vaiza said. “The two suspects were there in the process of watering the plants.”
According to the criminal complaint, city police Detective Rocky Fernandez received information about the site Tuesday afternoon.
“During surveillance, we noted to men coming out onto the lake in front of the [marijuana site]” and unloaded a small boat, the complaint said. The officers kept the area under surveillance and noticed activity that indicated the men were watering the plants.
“We decide to leave the area and proceeded to the other side of the grow site on the channel road” where a pickup was parked, the report said. Officers then gathered at a staging area and waited for the men to leave in the pickup, which happened at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Due to the thick dust thrown up on the dirt road, the suspects were able to elude officers temporarily. Fernandez radioed the Sheriff’s office with the license plate number and description of the vehicle.
Montoya, assisted by city police Sgt. Gilbert Padilla pulled the truck over in Socorro. A search revealed a bundle of about 20 plants in the bed of the pickup and a firearm.
Shannon and Biancardi were interviewed and then incarcerated at the Socorro County Detention Center.
The plantation was the fifth to be discovered and eradicated in Socorro County by city, county, state and federal law enforcement officers in the last few months.

Sheriff Philip Montoya (left) and Chief Deputy Shorty Vaiza display two of the bundles of marijuana plants confiscated from the plantation near San Marcial Wednesday. Each bundle is estimated to weigh about 100 pounds.

Photo by John Larson

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