A house fire led to the discovery of six marijuana grow houses and the seizure of more than 300 pounds of pot in two Hudson Valley counties.
The operations were uncovered on Wednesday, June 6, when members of the Town of Marlborough Police and Fire departments responded to a structure fire at 212 Bingham Lane in Marlboro, said the Ulster County Sheriff's Office.
First responders quickly determined that the entire residence had been converted to an indoor marijuana growing and processing operation,, the department said.
Marlborough Police requested the assistance of detectives from the Sheriff's Office and investigators from the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team which includes special agents from the Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
Investigators soon determined that a neighboring residence on the property was also housing an indoor growing operation. Members executed a search warrant at that location as well and continued to execute additional search warrants during the following days.
Search warrants were executed at six homes in Marlboro and the Town of Newburgh. The residences were large, single family, new construction homes. Three of the residences had been completely converted to facilitate the marijuana operation on all floors.
During the searches, police seized over 300 pounds of marijuana, pot processed and unprocessed, grow lights and growing equipment, drug packaging materials, scales, counter surveillance equipment, instructions and ledgers, and more. The street value of the pot was estimated at $800,000.
The power to the homes had been illegally "spliced" into the main power supply to avoid the detection of high usage. Central Hudson crews and investigators responded to disconnect the power and make the scenes safe for investigators.
The preliminary investigation of the original fire shows that the likely origin of the fire was an electric motor in one of the complex ventilation systems constructed as part of the grow operation, the sheriff's office said.
Investigators believe that this sophisticated operation is part of a drug trafficking organization based in the Hudson Valley. However, the investigation is ongoing and federal partners will be assisting moving forward, they added.
There has been one arrest made in conjunction with the case. Joseph I. Arredondo-Alarcon, 34, of Marlboro, was arrested by investigators during a traffic stop on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge on Thursday, June 7. He was charged with criminal possession of marijuana and is being held in the Ulster County Jail.
Several more arrests are anticipated.
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