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Sheriff: Five arrested in pot growing operation

Monday, November 07, 2011

A local sheriff's office is investigating another sizable marijuana growing operation. This time, it's been discovered near land owned by a well-known hand doctor in our area.

Leon County Sheriff's investigators call this a massive pot growing operation. Plants were as high as 12 feet and clearly had been here for years.

In rural Leon County, down a dirt road and tucked far behind heavy thicket, investigators say a ranch hand doing survey work Thursday discovered thousands of marijuana plants.

"It was back in an isolated portion of their ranch where no one ever goes back in there," said Leon County Sheriff Jerry Wakefield. "Just happened to be an employee."

Sheriff Wakefield says the employee apparently surprised an armed man who was guarding and tending the crop.

He said, "He did observe him harvesting some of the marijuana when he walked up on it."

That worker took some photos of the scene after that armed man fled into the brush once he realized he had been discovered. The ranch hand alerted authorities.

Sheriff Wakefield says a search warrant was served at a home nearby off Private Road 4505, where four people were arrested. Wakefield tells us deputies and federal drug agents seized a homemade irrigation system, drying houses, more than 2,000 plants, and firearms, including an AK-47.

He also tells us the ranch hand who made discovery worked for Dr. Michael Brown, the former hand surgeon recently acquitted for the alleged assault of his wife. Investigators are still trying to figure out where property lines begin and end, but we can tell you that investigators say a portion of the pot crop may have been on Brown's land.

Brown's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, says neither he client nor his employees knew anything about the pot.

"In fact, they're to be commended for reporting it as quickly as they did and for taking the photographs that are enabling the sheriff's office to investigate," DeGuerin said.

The sheriff's office says it's convinced none of the property owners, including Brown, knew anything about the pot. In all, five people have been arrested and investigators are still looking for more possible suspects. The pot has all been seized.

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