AURORA — The Denver Post reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration has begun its pot busts of illegal grows in affluent neighborhoods.
U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer announced last month that his office would partner with the DEA and local law enforcement agencies to begin shutting down illegal grows that were setting up shop in expensive suburban homes. Troyer advised that the raids would begin within two weeks.
Troyer believes that Cuban, Chinese, and Mexican drug cartels are behind the illegal grows and says that legal dispensaries are partnering with the cartels to sell weed grown illegally in the fancy suburban homes.
The U.S. Attorney says that the cartels purchase the expensive houses in affluent neighborhoods in an attempt to blend in and avoid law enforcement, even hiring professional landscapers to make the lawns of the houses match other homes in the neighborhood.
The raids did indeed begin within two weeks of the announcement with the DEA, Aurora SWAT, and other local agencies executing at least two dozen search warrants in the Denver metro area on Wednesday. Hundreds of officers participated in the raids from several law enforcement agencies.
Law enforcement officials targeted homes suspected of operating the illegal grows and selling it on the black market as well as in legal dispensaries. Authorities believe that the illegal marijuana is also sold in Colorado, the United States, and internationally, according to DEA spokesman Timothy Scott.
"What we're talking about here is black market marijuana that's being produced here in Colorado, shipped outside the state for distribution, mostly in the United States, but also outside the United States as well," Scott said.
Agents extracted hundreds of marijuana plants and lined them up on the front lawns of the half-million-dollar homes. No arrests were made during the raids, but agents reportedly confiscated 256 pot plants from one house alone, with another raid of another home producing twice as many plants.
DEA spokesman Randy Ladd claimed that no people were actually living in the expensive homes and said that the houses were bought strictly for the purpose of growing illegal weed, but police were seen escorting a man, woman, and child all wearing their pajamas out of one of the homes raided in the Tollgate Crossing area.
Another neighbor was friendly with one family with two children who were living in another one of the homes.
Neighbors Had Mixed Reactions to the Illegal Grows
Some neighbors were concerned to find out about the illegal grows, but others seemed more amused to find out that weed was growing inside the fancy houses. Hardy Jones lives across the street from one of the houses raided and was shocked by the events but not upset, adding "I'm ex-military. It's more interesting than worrying."
Scott told 9NEWS that the raids were only concerned with illegal operations, not legal cultivation sites. "I want to make it crystal clear. This isn’t about legal marijuana. This is about black-market marijuana." But when Troyer was asked if legal businesses could be charged with federal laws, he said that it was possible.
Scott went on to say that the expensive homes being used illegally to cultivate marijuana often have other issues for people to consider. "You have mold problems, you have the infrastructure problems. They cut these home (sic) apart, they take the floors out they put ventilation systems in," he said, noting that the homes are painted and resold with the mold covered up.
Law enforcement officials are still targeting other suburban affluent homes and expect to shut down additional illegal grows in the coming weeks.