Q13 FOX Season of Giving

Police finding more illegal grow operations using multiple converted homes

KING COUNTY, Wash. – Recreational and medical marijuana may be legal in our state but law enforcement say crooks are using more elaborate schemes to grow and sell black market pot.

“It’s something that I have to worry about on a daily basis,” said Miriam Reyes who lives in Des Moines.

Besides the airplane noise the only real complaint she deals with the house directly across the street.

“Nobody lives there. Once in a while you see somebody come in for half an hour, water the front lawn, do some landscaping and leave even though the house itself is falling apart,” she said.

King County Sheriff’s deputies say the home across the street from Reyes was part of their latest bust. Ten people were arrested and half a dozen homes were raided ranging from Des Moines to Skyway.

Deputies seized thousands of plants, equipment and cash. Cops say the black market pot was all being exported to states where pot isn’t legal. But there’s also a new trend: the recent busts are uncovering multiple homes being used by crooks to grow illegal weed.

“Instead of a single grow house they’re seeing these really, really intricate 15-20 houses,” said KCSO Sgt. Ryan Abbott. “The owners are paying cash for these houses. So they’re seeing a lot more advanced grow ops.”

Plus, late last year in Grays Harbor County, deputies busted multiple grow houses suspected of being run by Chinese nationals connected to organized crime. And investigators say the crooks were buying or renting homes with cash and gutting the places to build elaborate and sometimes dangerous operations.

“Kids might be out riding bikes around and never think anything of it,” said Abbott.

Police say the illegal grow houses can present a danger to the public because of the other criminal elements these illegal grows can attract.

That’s something Reyes worries about.

“My sense of safety has been you know has been put in the alarm mode because of this,” she said.

Deputies say there are some ways you can spot a grow house in your neighborhood.

The first could be the smell – sometimes the crooks can mask it but if you get close enough the stench of pot will be overwhelming.

Plus, if it seems nobody really lives at the home and they’re only showing up a few times a week that could be a red flag. Cops say if you’re concerned about a grow house in your area, they welcome anonymous tips.