Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Authorities suspect more pot growing in county

Raid nets largest marijuana farm ever in Blaine County

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling answers news media questions last Thursday while freshly pulled marijuana plants burn at the Ohio Gulch Transfer Station. The sheriff's office found some 2,000 marijuana pants growing on well-tended plots near Little Wood Reservoir north of Carey. Photo by David N. Seelig

In the aftermath of a major marijuana bust last week near Carey, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office suspects there is more illegal pot growing in remote areas of the county

"It's a very good possibility that there's more," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Jay Davis said Monday. "We were just lucky enough to find this one."

The sheriff's office, with the assistance of other local and state law enforcement agencies, uprooted and burned last Thursday some 2,000 6-foot-tall marijuana plants found growing on six well-tended plots near Little Wood Reservoir north of Carey.

Two alleged marijuana farmers were in the Blaine County Jail on Tuesday. Eduardo Mariscala, 30, and Leobardo Vega, 31, both believed to be from Heyburn, have been charged with marijuana drug trafficking. Mariscala was being held on $25,000 bond and Vega on $20,000 bond.

Following a tip from hunters who discovered the marijuana plots, Mariscala and Vega were arrested after offices set up surveillance and raided the site. Officers are searching for at least one other suspect who apparently escaped.

Davis said Mariscala and Vega are being uncooperative with authorities.

"They're playing like they don't even know the pot was there," he said. "It's up to us to prove they were involved, and we're still collecting evidence."

Sheriff Walt Femling said the six marijuana plots were found on Flat Top Sheep and Cattle Co. land owned by former state Sen. John Peavey.

"We do not believe in any shape or form that he was involved in this operation," Femling said.

He said that a camp was set up near the site that will require extensive cleanup, since it was strewn with numerous empty beer cans and other debris.

The marijuana was hauled by officers to the Ohio Gulch Transfer Station, between Ketchum and Hailey, where it was loaded on pallets inside of a trench and dowsed with diesel fuel.

"We kept some samples for evidence and burned the rest," Davis said.

He said the confiscated marijuana, with an estimated street value of $6 million, is the largest outdoor pot growing operation ever found in Blaine County.

Femling and his officers took numerous photographs of the growing marijuana that they intend to circulate so that hunters, livestock tenders and other people can recognize the plants if they come across them.

"Hey, follow the Bud Light cans, and it probably takes you to a grow," Femling said. "It's a major business happening now across the United States."

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