07/18/2007

Houston PD targets 'organized crime-style' pot ring

By Kevin Moran
The Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON, Tex. Houston police are sweeping the city today with arrest warrants for participants in what a prosecutor calls an "organized crime-style" marijuana cultivation ring that distributes pot all over the country.

Two people were in custody this morning and more are expected to be arrested by day's end, Paul Doyle, of the Harris County District Attorney special crimes division, said shortly before noon today. Doyle declined to say how many people are targeted.

Details of the arrests are expected to be released by Houston police later today, Doyle said.

Doyle and Houston police raided seven homes and seized hundeds of high-grade marijuana plants in southeast Houston Monday. The raids were the culmination of a five-month investigation into a ring that has been selling marijuana grown in the houses for about $4,000 a pound, he said.

"This is a very sophisticated criminal organization," Doyle said. "We have information that this stuff is shipped all over the country because they grow so much of it."

All the suspects in the investigation are of Vietnamese descent but not necessarily tied to known street gangs, Doyle said.

"They're very discreet about how they handle themselves," Doyle said, noting that neighbors of the seven homes were not aware that the houses were unoccupied pot farms.

The homes were equipped with timers on interior lights and cars were moved in and out of the driveways to make the use of the properties seem normal, Doyle said.

"One of the houses was a big supply warehouse," Doyle said, making police believe that more undiscovered cultivation houses remain in operation.

The marijuana-growing operation requires special lights, water filters, tables and trays for the plants, Doyle said. To keep from attracting attention to the houses with big electricity bills, the marijuana growers by-passed electric meters and tapped directly into power lines, he said.

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

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