Two men have been arrested in the theft of nearly $100,000 in electricity that powered an “elaborate” grow house.
Sumter County sheriff’s deputies responded Monday to a call for assistance from the United States Border Patrol regarding two Hispanic males that fled from a traffic stop near Interstate 75 and the exit to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.
Deputies located one of the suspects and he was taken into custody on County Road 631 in Bushnell. Meanwhile the sheriff’s office received another call that the other suspect had crossed Interstate 75 traveling eastbound on foot. Deputies responded to that area, at which time a detective observed a male subject fitting the description of the remaining suspect take flight from the yard located at 8001 County Road 674.
Detectives then observed the rear door to a residence standing open and due to the circumstances, suspected that the male fleeing from the border patrol may have committed a burglary in the effort to evade capture. Sumter Correctional Institution responded with their bloodhounds and ultimately tracked to the location of two males attempting to hide in forest vegetation.
The two suspects were arrested and identified as 50-year-old Osvaldo Lopez-Gonzales and 28-year-old Yosdany Gonzalez.
While at the residence, detectives found evidence of an indoor marijuana grow operation. The premises were then secured while detectives sought a search warrant.
Upon execution of the search warrant, an elaborate marijuana indoor grow operation was confirmed and resulted in the seizure of 157 marijuana plants, 20 grams of “loose” marijuana, two electronic money counters, a loaded semi-automatic Springfield .45-caliber handgun and numerous items from past indoor grow operations. The street value of the marijuana yield is approximately $565,000 and Sumter Electric’s estimated losses due to the theft by power diversion are approximately $97,883.
At this time, the case is still under investigation and additional charges are forthcoming.
“The sheriff’s office wants the public to be aware that these types of operations are usually tied to organized crime originating out of South Florida and the Tampa Bay region and these elaborate power diversions result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in theft from utility companies, which in turn affect our citizens. We take all of these cases seriously and will maintain a zero tolerance policy,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.