LAWRENCEVILLE - Police say three men arrested this week for allegedly growing and selling marijuana had approximately 500 plants and a lab in the basement of a Lawrenceville home.
Gwinnett County Police Department spokesman Darren Moloney said Eduardo Rodriguez, 43, (who was previously identified in a warrant as Eduardo Rodriguez-Ibarra) and Jose Felipe-Bruno, 35, of Hialeah, Fla., along with Jorge Gonzalez-Sanchez, 36, of Cape Coral, Fla., were allegedly growing marijuana at 2350 Friars Gate Drive in Lawrenceville.
After searching the residence, officers found approximately 500 plants, an irrigation system, buckets filled with the growing plants, hydroponic beans and a lighting system for the plants. Moloney said the seizure was part of an ongoing investigation with the Barrow County Sheriffs Office Narcotics Unit, the Hall County Sheriff's Office Multi Agency Narcotics Unit and the Fayette County Sheriff's Office Multi Agency Drug Suppression Task Force.
"The downstairs basement for the home was completely redesigned for the sole purpose of cultivating marijuana," Moloney said.
He said most of the equipment used to grow the plant are things that could be purchased at a local hardware store.
"The most special piece of equipment was the lighting," Moloney said. "The rest was sheet rock, PVC pipe and plant buckets."
Moloney said the plants seized from the home have a value of more than $2 million and more than 15,000 grams (about 34 pounds) of marijuana ready for distribution with a street value of about $153,000.
Police believe the home was not a high traffic area for selling the drugs. Moloney said the marijuana was only grown and packaged at the house and later distributed to other areas and sold.
"It wasn't a high volume area, so that's probably why neighbors didn't noticed it," he said.
Rodriguez, Felipe-Bruno and Gonzalez-Sanchez fled from officers when they arrived at the home to make arrests Monday, Moloney said, but Rodriguez and Felipe-Bruno were later arrested around 12 a.m. Tuesday; Gonzalez-Sanchez was arrested at 11:54 p.m. Monday, according to the detention center admission docket.
Moloney said the three denied living at the home and he said their legal status in the United States is unknown.
Each man is charged with felony trafficking marijuana and felony manufacturing marijuana, according to arrest warrants. Moloney said the men remain at the Gwinnett County Detention Center and have been denied bond.
The sentence for a person convicted of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute is incarceration with no less than one and no more than 10 years, Moloney added.
Jail time for trafficking the drug, he said, varies. Trafficking of 10 to 2,000 pounds carries a mandatory minimum incarceration of five years and a fine of $100,000.
Moloney said he believes there could be other homes in the county with operations similar to the one discovered Monday.
"We're not naive to think that this is the only home like that in Gwinnett County," he said. "We're working with Fayette, Hall and Barrow county who say they've seen similar."