by: Tony Thomas Updated:
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Gwinnett County authorities say they've taken millions of dollars' worth of marijuana off the streets in a series of
"grow" house raids.
The houses are rented and appear normal on the outside, but authorities say suspects make elaborate modifications to the homes' interiors to make them the perfect environment to grow marijuana plants. Often, no one actually lives in the houses but just arrives to take care of the plants.
Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas was given exclusive access to the raids over the last month. Investigators asked Channel 2 not to reveal the operations until after the investigation had been completed for security reasons.
The Gwinnett Metro Task Force raided
five homes, seizing 1,800 marijuana plants and 34 pounds of processed pot ready to be delivered.
"That's bigger than anything I've done in a month's time in my career," the Task Force commander told Thomas. Channel 2 agreed not to reveal his identity.
The commander said the raids began after a bust of a grow house on Beaver Ruin Road in Norcross, and the operation continued to grow.
The Task Force says it found plants in houses in Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross and Tucker amounting to a street value of $5.5 million.
"That's a lot of marijuana that was taken off the street, but there's a lot of marijuana still out there, I'm sure," he said.
He said several suspects have either been arrested or have pending indictments against them. All are reportedly from Vietnam
and came to the United States through Canada.
"We are still trying to determine if they did know each other and if they did, to what degree? They ranged from elderly to
20s in these houses. Sometimes they lived in the houses, and sometimes they traveled to the houses to work in the houses."
Neighbors all seemed shocked such big operations were going on in secret right next door to them.
"Oh wow. Well, they kept it pretty well hidden," said Paul D'Antonio.
And authorities say that was by design. They say suspects did elaborate and sometimes dangerous construction to hide the illegal activity.
"The wiring was done pretty well, all on timers. They actually put a secondary electrical panel in the house to run all of their equipment off," the commander said' "The water in the house was all trapped, there was no water that was being drained."
The Gwinnett Metro Task Force is composed of several agencies, including the County Sheriff's Office, Lilburn Police, Lawrenceville Police, Snellville Police, Duluth Police and Suwanee Police.