DA: 500 pounds of marijuana seized in Philly
PHILADELPHIA - December 7, 2012 -- Authorities say they've broken up a massive marijuana growing operation run out of a Philadelphia rowhouse, seizing drugs worth more than $1 million.
The Philadelphia district attorney's office says 41-year-old Vinh Quang Nguyen is being held on $1 million bail following his arrest Thursday. At a home on the 2300 block of Frankford Avenue, investigators say they discovered more than 500 pounds of marijuana.
Video taken by drug enforcement agents shows what they describe as a major marijuana growing operation.
There were hundreds of marijuana plants - some standing five feet high, an elaborate ventilation system, grow lamps, all powered by an extensive electrical hookup.
"That was very intricate, very sophisticated. They had fans going and vents going," said Kalli Badolato, Assitant District Attorney.
Law enforcement officials say the heat inside was so intense that it distorted their video.
A neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, was shocked to learn what prosecutors say was going on in the home next door.
"Underneath my radar. I couldn't believe it. He was involved of all people," said the neighbor.
Along with the marijuana in growing stages, authorities say they discovered three large bags of cut marijuana ready for distribution.
They reported that the drug growing operation took up all three floors of the house - and yet - Nguyen lived there with his wife - and two small boys - ages 7 and 11.
An owner of a nearby pizza place said he often saw the family and is stunned by the allegations.
"The man himself was very quiet. I didn't really know him personally but I saw him filling up a kiddie pool in the summer time. Never saw much other than that," said Brian Dwyer.
Investigators say Nguyen was boiling pots of fabric softener to try to mask the odor but the smell of pot was strong even out on the street.
The set up posed a serious fire hazard and yet - the suspect's two small boys slept in their beds just a few feet away from it all.
The children were at school at the time Nguyen was arrested.
Meanwhile, Nguyen remains in custody on $1 million bail and has a court hearing scheduled for December 27th.
philadelphia, marijuana, local/state, sarah bloomquist
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