POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Polk County investigators arrested 11 people, seized 96 pounds of marijuana, 70 marijuana plants, marijuana cultivation equipment, cash and vehicles during a drug trafficking bust, according to the sheriff's office.
Sheriff Grady Judd said a marijuana grown house was also busted by investigators Monday night in Poinciana. Authorities said they found 37 large mature cannabis plants, ranging from 6 to 8 feet in height, inside the home. The total weight of all the cannabis plants was approximately 307 pounds, deputies said. A couple was arrested during the grow house bust, deputies said. Two people were arrested in that case: Lazaro Gutierrez-Hernandez and Yuriekis Gutierrez-Hernandez.
Throughout the investigation, detectives said they learned 41-year-old Nelson Hernandez of Lake Wales traveled to south Florida with a large amount of marijuana.
Detectives said they also learned that Hernandez was worried about law enforcement catching him with his grow operation. In the week before search warrants were served, Hernandez began dismantling marijuana grow houses known to detectives, authorities said.
Authorities said Hernandez was seen removing several large containers, boxes and large duffel bags and taking them into another residence. Detectives said Hernandez had discussed with friends having to pay a person $10,000 to keep the items at his residence.
Detectives said they served search warrants to five homes in Lake Wales and one in Frostproof, where they found the items.
Officials said most of the people arrested are from Cuba and were brought into the country illegally at a price.
"Then, part of the deal is in order to pay back the fees to smuggle you into the country you have to tend these houses," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. "When they show up, they steal the electricity. You have someone go in and bypass the meter and hotwire."
The Department of Children and Families was notified because of two children who were found in one of the homes.
Detectives said they arrested Nelson Hernandez, 41, Zailen Hernandez-Alonso, 38, Yohandi Hernandez-Cruz, 26, Reynel de Armas Fundora, 28, Yasmany Gallardo, 30, Jose Diaz, 57, Francesca Lopez, 41, Jesus Perdomo Padron, 41, and Guillermo Jorrin, 43.