Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 | 2:18 p.m.
A Southern Nevada police task force has toppled a sophisticated, four-house marijuana grow operation, seizing 61.8 pounds of marijuana and 2,264 plants worth a combined $5.6 million, authorities said.
The Southern Nevada Cannabis Operation raided the rental homes and arrested California residents Joseph Ramirez, 27, on Tuesday, and Rudy Rivera, 34, on Thursday, Metro Police officials said.
The first raid took place on Thursday in the 10000 block of Tawny Buck Court. Police seized 468 marijuana plants and 56 pounds of ready-for-sale marijuana and arrested Rivera, authorities said.
The next day, the task force raided a home in the 8000 block of Wards Ferry Street and a house in the 3700 block of Lily Haven Avenue, officials said. Police discovered 1,183 marijuana plants, 5.8 pounds of marijuana and an alligator that was being kept in a dirty aquarium, officials said.
The task force made the final raid about 4 p.m. Tuesday at a two-story rental house in the 500 block of Mossy Bark Court, where officers seized 613 plants and a gun and arrested Ramirez, police said.
“We’ll probably be here until 4 or 5 in the morning,” said Metro Police Lt. Laz Chavez, who oversees the department’s narcotics unit and was on the scene. “(The marijuana garden) is such a substantial size, it will take us quite a while to sort though it.”
Rivera and Ramirez were arrested on counts of possession of marijuana, possession with intent to sell marijuana and trafficking marijuana.
Ramirez also faces counts of conspiracy to violate the uniform controlled substance act and possession of a firearm, authorities said.
Investigators believe others are involved in the drug operation, because each grow house operation was large and intricately planned, officials said.
To hide the unusually large amount of energy used to grow the plants, for example, the group tapped into each home’s energy meter and modified it, authorities said. Electrical systems also were manually rewired to accommodate more lamps, officials said.
Floors, meanwhile were sodden with liquid fertilizers and other chemicals, police said.
“Obviously, that’s very dangerous,” Chavez said. “It’s a fire hazard.”
The drug task force is made up of Metro and Henderson police officers and agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The investigation is ongoing and the task force is working with California authorities.
Police urge anyone with information to contact the Metro Narcotics Section at 828-3461 or to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 385-5555 or online at crimestoppersofnv.com.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Ana Ley contributed to this report.