Friday, Nov 28, 2014

Pot grow-house probe continues

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PINELLAS PARK — Pinellas County sheriff’s investigators think a hydroponic marijuana grow house that caught fire last month was operated by a leader of a gang called Nation of Thugs, according to court documents made public on Wednesday.

The documents identified the leader as Morgan Powell.

Powell, 34, has not been charged, and there are no warrants out for his arrest, sheriff’s officials say. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to the sale and delivery of cocaine and to possession of cocaine, according to state records. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Powell registered the business at 7400 62nd Terrace N., Unit B, as the Nation of Tattoos, according to the Florida Department of Corporations. The Nation of Tattoos is the “legitimate arm of a criminal gang ... which goes by the name of Nation of Thugs,” the court documents state.

Investigators came upon the grow operation when it caught fire on Jan. 8. They have acquired search warrants to seize contents in the building and the images in two digital video recorders on the property, according to affidavits with the search requests.

Firefighters had to cut a chain-link fence to access the building that afternoon, and they had to force their way in to extinguish the fire, the affidavits state.

Inside were 40 marijuana plants, an elaborate hydroponic grow operation, and a safe containing seven firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition, the documents say.

The grow operation consisted of six grow lights suspended above the plants, six ballasts on the floor, multiple fans on the floor and wall, and a ventilation system that used a charcoal filter to absorb the marijuana smell, the documents state.

There also was an intricate irrigation system composed of water-filled trash cans that had tubes connected to a pump, the affidavits state.

The firearms confiscated were a .22-caliber machine pistol, a 5.56 mm machine pistol with a 30-round magazine, a 5.56 mm rifle with a high-power scope, three handguns and an AK-47 with a drum-style magazine, the affidavits state. There were 6,500 rounds for the AK-47, the affidavits state.

Attached to the outside of the structure were four video surveillance cameras with feeds to digital video recorders on the second floor inside, the affidavits state.

The DVRs had additional wires that allowed someone to watch whatever the videos captured on a television on the first floor, the affidavits state.

Investigators obtained permission to search the contents of two DVRs on the property, the affidavits state. Images were found in one but not in the other.

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504

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