Thursday, September 23, 2010

Marijuana Plantations Aplenty

By John Severance

Socorro police officer Rocky Fernandez is part of the Region 7 Task Force. He and BLM ranger Mark Wheeler had just taken a class put on by the National Guard on flight reconnaissance.
On Tuesday, they were scheduled to fly up and down the Rio Grande River along with the National Guard and were supposed to go as far south as the Sierra County line.
They never made it.
They kept finding marijuana sites.
It turned out to be an extremely busy day. With assistance from the sheriff’s department and the eradication efforts of the National Guard, Fernandez found three different sites where marijuana was being grown.
“The first one we eradicated eight plants from the San Acacia area,” Fernandez said.
Then flying south from there, Fernandez and Wheeler noticed a residence on 2485 Bosquecito Road where marijuana was being grown in the backyard.
On the ground, one adult was arrested at the site while another three were arrested who left the property by van and were pulled over about a mile north down Bosquecito Road.
Sheriff Philip Montoya said  four adults were taken into custody but their names and what they were charged with were not available at press time.
In all, Montoya said 85 plants were taken from the Bosquecito Road residence.
“This stuff was prime time compared to the others we have seen,” said deputy Casey Spurgin.
The seven-acre property was covered with weeds and there were two trailers, a two-story home as well as a camper.
While Montoya was executing the search warrant on the Bosquecito Road residence, he received a call from Fernandez that there was another site further down the river.
“It was about a quarter-mile long and eight to 10 feet across,” Fernandez said.
From the road, there was a lot of underbrush and a barbed wire fence and the location was about 5 miles past a sign that read the Eva Hilton Lewis Ranch, a New Mexico Tech property.
Vaiza said Wednesday afternoon the site was at the ranch owned by Tech.
“We contacted the New Mexico Tech police and they came down and took some photos for evidence purposes,” Vaiza said
The location was about 500 yards from the road, east toward the river.
“It’s the biggest one we have taken down,” Montoya said Wednesday morning.
“We had the Road Depart-ment come in and make a road on to the site,” Montoya said. “We we’re there until about 9 last night and we took out over 500 plants in one little area.”
According to deputy Shorty Vaiza, the final total was 1,202 plants.
“We got more plants in the first bust but these weighed a lot more,” Vaiza said. “These plants were ready for harvest. They were all sagging because of the weight and the size of the buds.”
Vaiza said there was a briefing at 8 a.m. Wednesday and the National Guard crew picked up the rest of the plant and put them in the back of two county trucks. One had 800 plants and the other had 400.
The trucks made their way back to the county yard. Each of the plants was then put through a chipper supplied by the Socorro Electric Cooperative.
Vaiza said the remnants of the plants would then be bagged and held for evidence.
Also at the plantation site, there were solar panels and an underground irrigation system.
“It was all there,” Vaiza said.
Fernandez said there have been nine marijuana plantation busts this summer.
 “I’m just doing my job,” Fernandez said. “Some people just say its only marijuana. Marijuana is not legal and there is tons of marijuana being grown out there. It’s our job to get rid of it.”

Picture: Socorro police officer Rocky Fernandez and Sheriff Philip Montoya stand in a marijuana plantation near the Rio Grande.

Photo by John Severance

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