Nearly 2,000 marijuana plants averaging 5 feet tall were uprooted from an irrigated cornfield north of Reardan, the Lincoln County sheriff said Thursday.
Three suspects were arrested, including an undocumented 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, and Vicente M. Garcia, 51, both of the Kennewick area. They were bailed out of jail, the Sheriff’s Office said.
All three face state or federal charges of manufacturing a controlled substance.
The marijuana was found spread across an 80-acre field north of Reardan, Magers said. The corn screened the plants from view.
“For our agency, it was pretty substatial,” Magers said.
The arrests were made July 22 after three people were seen going into the field.
Sheriff’s deputies were assisted by officers from the Spokane Tribe.
The next morning, Magers and officers began pulling out the plants, estimated to have a street value of about $1,500 each, nearly $3 million total.
The investigation began with a tip to the Sheriff’s Office.
The farmer who was growing the corn is not suspected of a crime, 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 half-circle irrigation was providing water and fertilizer.
Magers said the method is possibly being employed in other cornfields 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.