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Metro thinks marijuana grow houses might be connected

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image from wikimedia commons (By Pauk at ru.wikipedia, [CC-BY-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0) or CC-BY-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], from Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated: 1/12/2013 5:28 pm
By William D'Urso
LAS VEGAS SUN

A pungent, skunklike odor wafted through the air of a quiet neighborhood in the west Las Vegas Valley on Friday, heralding the presence of about 2,000 marijuana plants. It was the second major haul of the week seized by authorities.

The raid happened around 2:30 p.m. on the 9600 block of Cathedral Stairs Court near Tropicana Avenue and Fort Apache Road. The location was near two other raids made on the 3300 block of Trickling Stream Circle on Wednesday and the 9200 block of Snowflake Avenue on Thursday.

“The proximity of each of these homes is all incredibly close,” narcotics Lt. Laz Chavez said. “That’s what leads us to expect that these are all related.”

The operation was conducted by the Southern Nevada Cannabis Operation and Regional Enforcement (SCORE) team, a multijurisdictional task force.

No suspects were found at the home, and police are in the process of translating reams of documents in an Asian language from the Wednesday seizure. From there, they’ll be able to determine whether the three grow houses could be linked.

The seizure punctuates a busy week for Metro’s narcotics arm. The home raided Wednesday was said to have 1,481 plants with a street value of about $4.5 million, and it was at the time the largest pot bust on record for the agency.

“That didn’t last long,” Chavez said. “This is going to surpass that.”

Chavez said a total count of the plants will be completed next week, and he expects to have more details on the amount of marijuana found and its estimated street value.

Police had difficulty identifying the suspects in the Wednesday seizure but eventually found their names using a national fingerprint database. The suspects finally were identified as Biao Chang, 45, and Chen Hui Qing, 44, police said. They were arrested on counts of possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell, conspiracy to violate the uniform controlled substance act and maintaining a place for the sale of a controlled substance.

Chavez said the pair could face additional charges as the investigations into the other two grow house operations continue.

Authorities said the neighborhood grow houses can sometimes be identified by suspicious activity at odd hours of the day or night, or condensation on the windows. Metro has stressed the dangers these houses can present to surrounding residents because the value of the drugs can attract other criminals.

“Bad guys are going to try and rip off bad guys,” Officer Jose Hernandez said. “It’s a lucrative business; bad guys know this.”
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