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Surge Desk

Marijuana 'Megafarms' Busted in Ohio; Ties to Mexican Drug Cartels Suspected

Sep 22, 2010 – 12:20 PM
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Dana Chivvis

Dana Chivvis Contributor

(Sept. 22) -- Authorities in Ohio destroyed two marijuana farms outside of Columbus and arrested 11 Mexicans in connection with the operation on Monday. The farms, which were about 90 miles apart, held a total of 2,500 plants with a street value of approximately $5 million, the state attorney general's office announced.

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.

Authorities search a pot plantation
Ohio attorney general's office

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.

Marijuana at a plantation
Ohio attorney general's office

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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