25 indicted in marijuana scheme

Tue, 08/14/2007 - 12:12pm
By: John Munford

Investigation started in Fayette

A federal grand jury has indicted 25 persons on charges stemming from a large-scale investigation into hydroponically-grown marijuana that began in Fayette County, officials said Tuesday morning.

Among those indicted are two Fayette residents: Merquiades Martinez, whom police called the “master grower” and Blanca Botello, his wife, a Fayetteville real estate agent.

The investigation began with a tip from south Florida officials to the Fayette County Drug Task Force led to 44 active “grow houses” where marijuana was being grown indoors with special lighting and watering systems, officials said.

In addition to the various indictments, police also seized more than 8,600 marijuana plants and more than 2,200 pounds of processed marijuana that was shown to be of very high potency, officials said.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Fayette County Sheriff Randall Johnson said his agency was proud to participate in such a successful sting. He also thanked other law enforcement agencies for cooperating in the investigation.

Johnson said while some naysayers think the sheriff’s department shouldn’t work cases outside of Fayette County, the work the task force does outside of the county keeps drugs from being distributed here.

In addition to the marijuana, police also have confiscated $197,000 in cash and 10 vehicles believed to have been used in the enterprise.

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