Nearly 2,000 marijuana plants averaging five feet in height were uprooted last week by authorities from an irrigated corn field north of Reardan, the Lincoln County sheriff said today.
Three out-of-town suspects were arrested, including an illegal immigrant from Mexico who was being held Thursday in Lincoln County Jail for federal immigration authorities, Sheriff Wade Magers said.
He was identified as Martin A. Amezcua Gutierrez, 19. The other two suspects were Jose L. Olivera, 43, Vicente M. Garcia, 51, both of the Kennewick area. They bailed out of jail, the sheriff said.
All three are facing state or federal charges of manufacturing a controlled substance.
The marijuana was found spread across an 80-acre, half-circle field north of Reardan, Magers said. The corn was used to screen the plants from view.
“For our agency, it was pretty substantial,” he said.
The arrests came at 9:30 p.m. on July 22 after three men were seen going into the field. Spokane tribal officers assisted sheriff’s deputies.
The next morning, Magers and officers began pulling the large plants, estimated to have a street value of about $1,500 each. The total haul was 1,950 plants, he said.
The investigation began with a tip to the Sheriff’s Office. The farmer who was growing the corn is not a suspect in the case, Magers said.
Apparently, the growers had been sneaking into the field without the farmer’s knowledge and had been trimming away corn plants to make room for the marijuana. The irrigation provided water and fertilizer.
Magers said it is possible that the growing method is being employed in other corn fields across the Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley.
“Presumably, it’s happening in other counties throughout the state,” he said. A grow operation was uprooted at a tree farm in Walla Walla recently, he said.
In all, about 10 officers worked on the case. The total street value of the marijuana was estimated at nearly $3 million.