Authorities believe the pot plantations could have ties to Mexican drug cartels, which have been planting crops in the U.S. in recent years. This summer, 30,000 marijuana plants were discovered on two plots of land south of Dallas. Earlier this month, authorities in Colorado found 4,400 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $8 million growing in Pike National Forest. Last summer, they destroyed 14,500 marijuana plants in the same area.
The Ohio operation was allegedly run by Hugo Ayala, 40, a legal resident of the U.S. who ran the business from his Columbus apartment, driving the workers to the farms where they camped several days a week to tend to and guard the crops.
The state began the investigation into the megafarms in June after two hunters stumbled on one of the marijuana plots in Logan County. In August, the investigators found the second plot in Muskingum County, nestled next to fields of corn.
The 11 men appeared in a U.S. District Court in Dayton, Ohio, Tuesday and are scheduled to have a detention hearing Thursday. They are all charged with conspiracy to cultivate more than 100 marijuana plants, which could result in five to 40 years in prison if they are found guilty.
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