Hernando Sheriff Accuses Three of Stealing Electricity
The arrests, which came over a 13-day period, also resulted in drug charges for the three men.
HERNANDO COUNTY – Three men have been accused of diverting power and growing marijuana, according to the Hernando County Sheriff.
Danny Mirabal-Torres, 32, of 5365 Bamboo Court, Orlando, was charged with one count each of cultivation of marijuana, possession of a structure for manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, grand theft and possession of paraphernalia, according to deputies and Hernando County Jail records.
Jose Rodriguez-Mateu, 65, of 12216 Petcairn St., Brooksville, was charged with one count each of trafficking in marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, possession of a structure for manufacturing a controlled substance, grand theft, tresspass on a utility fixture and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Alexander Ponce, 33, of 18303 Macek Road, Brooksville, was charged with one count each of trafficking in marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, possession of a structure for manufacturing a controlled substance, grand theft, possession of paraphernalia and trespass on a utility fixture.
If convicted, each faces the possibility of more than 30 years in prison.
The arrests, made pursuant to search warrants, were made over a 13-day period, deputies said. The search warrants were issued after detectives and representatives of Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative found that power was being diverted, or stolen.
The first search warrant was executed at 18303 Macek Road in Brooksville (Royal Highlands) on June 8.
When they arrived, deputies found the residence to be unoccupied, but set up to cultivate marijuana. The sliding glass door and several windows were reinforced with metal framing that covered the entire window opening. Deputies said they found and seized 17 large marijuana plants that had already been harvested and were in the drying process, 56 plants growing in various stages, several bags of processed marijuana and plant material, and numerous items of grow equipment and paraphernalia. A total of 210 pounds of processed marijuana were seized.
The power diversion was located in the attic. The resident was paying a $200 electric bill on a regular basis. The house was actually using about $1,500 worth of power each month. At approximately 2 p.m., a white Cadillac, driven by the suspect’s girlfriend, drove past the residence. A traffic stop was conducted on the Cadillac and deputies found Ponce in the car.
Ponce told deputies that the metal framing on the door and windows was to protect himself from being raided by other drug dealers.
Representatives from WREC said the total dollar amount lost in power theft and labor costs was about $59,778.
The second search warrant was executed at 10280 Javelin Road in Brooksville on June 16, deputies said.
When they arrived, deputies said they saw two people on the property. They caught Torres. The other person ran into a nearby wooded area and was never found.
Deputies said they seized the following items 60 marijuana plants, 267.3 grams of processed marijuana, and numerous items of grow equipment. Deputies said Torres admitted to “tending to the marijuana plants” for about the last two months.
WREC representatives said the total lost in power theft and labor costs was about $35,746.
The third search warrant was executed at 13451 Taft Street in Brooksville on June 20.
Deputies said that, when they entered the home, they found Rodriguez. Deputies said Rodriguez admitted he was the sole person responsible for the grow operation. He told deputies he was growing the marijuana “for his retirement” but refused to provide any other details.
Deputies said they seized a large amount of harvested marijuana that was ready for distribution. The total weight was 76 pounds and had an estimated street value of $228,000. They also found 69.6 pounds of plant material, 48 marijuana plants (the smallest plant weighed 10.2 pounds), several items of grow equipment and paraphernalia and a brand new five-ton air conditioner still in the shrink wrap, which was going to be used in the grow room.
The power diversion was occurring in the attic, deputies said.
Rodriguez told deputies he was not selling the marijuana but officers said they did not believe him because his story continually changed.
According to representatives from WREC, when power is stolen to help facilitate the illegal grow operations, it negatively affects every WREC consumer, financially. Each customer feels the burden of the theft of power as it ultimately has a negative effect on their power bill, to make up for what has been stolen.
Deputies said one of the three was making more than $100,000 every three months and another was making about $1,000 per week by tending to the marijuana plants.
“These criminal operations not only ignore the drug laws, they steal from each of us in the way of higher electric bills. The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work very closely with local power companies in holding these people accountable,” Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.
For information about the Hernando Sheriff, go to hernandosheriff.org.
Photos courtesy of the Hernando Sheriff’s Office.
Hernando Sheriff | Marijuana Bust | Drug Arrests | Crime | Tampa Bay Reporter
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