HOMESTEAD -- In South Florida, where creative criminal enterprises are often over the top, Miami-Dade police recently uncovered another and went about dismantling it on Thursday.
This was an intricately constructed marijuana lab hidden in an unused swimming pool, covered by a slab of concrete, wired with electricity and operating right under the noses of neighbors in a quiet Homestead community.
The empty pool - accessed through a makeshift tunnel from inside the house at 30121 SW 147th Ct. was discovered last week when police went in with a search warrant. They discovered a total of 82 potted marijuana plants. They also eventually discovered several plastic bags containing approximately five pounds of the drug.
Arrested were: Valexy Quintero Consuegra, 37, Marley Torres Denis, 27, and Eddy Peláez Ramírez, 44, all of Miami-Dade. They have been charged with trafficking and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, among other charges. They also face theft charges for stealing electricity from Florida Power & Light.
Neighbors were surprised about the bust in their midst, saying they noticed traffic coming and going at all times, but thought the house was in foreclosure.
The elaborate subterranean set up was discovered after police stopped a Range Rover near the home occupied by Quintero and Torres. When detectives approached, they said they detected a strong odor of pot inside the vehicle.
Quintero and Torres were taped having a conversation in which they admitted they knew there was marijuana in the Range Rover’s trunk and they planned to lie to police about it. They were arrested. It is unclear if they were recorded before or after the discovery of the pool lab.
“These criminals are going to think outside the box to make a quick buck,’’ Miami-Dade police spokesperson Alvaro Zabaleta said to a local television reporter.
The operation could have been going on for years, Zabaleta said.