Pot smell leads deputies to grow house in East Orange County

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Only Channel 9 was there Monday as Orange County deputies wearing hazmat suits dismantled a huge marijuana-growing operation.

Investigators were working an unrelated operation near Goldenrod Road and University Boulevard when one of the deputies said they got a whiff of pot from next door.

When it was all said and done, deputies hauled nearly 100 pot plants, some over 6 feet tall, out of the home on Esperanza Street in East Orange County.

Authorities said no one was living in the home but Channel 9's Tim Barber was there when a man with keys went to go inside after deputies left the scene.

There's no word on whether the man was involved in the scheme, but Barber called authorities so they could talk with the man, who said he didn't speak English.

Investigators said the grow operation was elaborate, with a makeshift power grid inside stealing power directly from a utility line outside.

Neighbors who asked to remain unidentified said it was a scary find.

"(Our children) go outside and play and you don't even want to let them go too far, because now you cannot trust your neighbors," one woman said.

Sometimes power companies detect grow houses because they rack up unusually high energy bills to pay for the lights and air-conditioning to keep the plants healthy, but authorities said the home was under the radar for four years because the operators were stealing power directly from the line next door.

They they set up a grid system in the house to break the energy down, leaving just enough to go through the meter so the energy company wouldn't get suspicious, authorities said.