Investigators aided by a helicopter last Wednesday and Thursday seized 532 marijuana plants from northern Trumbull County and 856 plants in southern Ashtabula County.
The plants would have had a street value of more than $1 million, said Ernie Cook, chief deputy with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office.
On Tuesday, with a court order in hand, officers destroyed 90 percent of the plants at an undisclosed location. The other 10 percent is being retained, dried and processed as evidence for possible prosecution of six individuals.
Investigators with the Trumbull Ashtabula Law Enforcement Task Force were assisted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which provided the helicopter, said Jeff Orr, TAG commander.
The annual two-day operation filled up the back of a large pickup truck with illegal plants. But if BCI’s helicopter had been available longer, investigators could have seized much more, Orr said.
BCI provides the helicopter every year with funding provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. It costs $500 per hour to operate the helicopter.
Orr said most of the pot is planted in farmers’ fields, frequently after removing the farmers’ crops, which reduces the amount of corn the farmer can yield. In most cases, it’s impossible to identify and prosecute the owner, Orr said.
Sometimes farmers discover the plants and report it to law enforcement, Orr said.