Despite having legalized medical marijuana, some people in New Jersey are still smoking it just for fun and today officials announced one of the largest indoor growing operations of the wacky weed ever.
“While law enforcement in New Jersey has encountered high-tech indoor marijuana growing operations in the past, we have not seen anything to match the volume of production of this criminal enterprise,” said Attorney General Paula T. Dow in announcing the bust. “These defendants might be called tenant farmers in one sense, because of their use of rental properties, but they certainly were not struggling to pay the rent with their harvest. They were allegedly tending a crop worth $10 million.”
Along with a vast array of indoor cultivation equipment, 3,370 growing plants, 115 pounds of harvested marijuana and $65,000 cash was seized in the raids on five different large homes, which one law-enforcement official described as "mansions."
The residences had all been gutted so that they could hold as many marijuana plants as possible.
The investigation began on February 17th when Officer Thomas Lucasiewicz of the Monroe Township Police Department smelled the distinctive odor of burnt marijuana coming from the chimney of 558 Spotswood-Englishtown Road, according to investigators. Officer Lucasiewicz arrested Thu N. Nguyen, 44 when officers knocked on the door and were faced with overpowering evidence that Nguyen was burning unusable parts of pot plants in the home’s fireplace, officials said.
In the basement of the home were three cultivation areas, with another grow area set up in the master bedroom, prosecutors said. A total of 1,064 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were taken from these areas. In addition, the garage area contained about 50 pounds of packaged pot and four thousand dollars in cash was also seized. The home was also equipped with a sophisticated surveillance system consisting of four cameras to monitor the exterior of the residence.
Nguyen, a Canadian citizen, was charged with maintaining a marijuana cultivation facility, possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS) with intent to distribute, and theft of services (for stealing electricity to power the extensive system of grow lights). He was held in lieu of $1 million full cash bail.
The next day, additional search warrants were issued for three locations and one vehicle. A search of 38 Robbins Rd. in Millstone Township uncovered sophisticated grow areas with 504 actively growing plants and approximately 50 pounds of harvested bulk marijuana. Tuan A. Dang, 35, of Port Monmouth and Ngoc H. Bui, 35 of Old Bridge were both located and arrested at the Robbins Road house. Dang and Bui, both naturalized U.S. citizens, were both charged with maintaining a marijuana cultivation facility, possession of CDS with intent to distribute, and theft of services (electricity). They were each held in lieu of $1 million full cash bail.
“The Garden State is not a designation that we are willing to accept for the cultivation of Marijuana, said Major Matt Wilson, Commanding Officer of the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section. "Interagency cooperation turned this discovery of a large indoor grow into a massive operation that dismantled a major marijuana grower in the midst of our quiet residential communities."