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Massive Grow House, Cockfighting Ring Unearthed Under Dog House

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A massive underground marijuana growing operation and a cockfighting ring were discovered in west Miami-Dade Monday night.

Acting on an anonymous tip, police secured a search warrant for the home in the 12100 block of N.W. 6 Street and found the cleverly concealed illegal operation. A dog house on the side of the residence served as the entrance to an underground crawl space which was half the length of the home.

The space wasn't big enough for an adult to stand upright in. The plants were growing in soil with the help of an illegal and dangerous electrical system. The spokesman for the Miami-Dade police says the two residents in the home were stealing electricity for an unknown source and splicing it to power the operation. Between the shoddy electrical work and the chemicals used to grow the marijuana plants, Miami-Dade police said they were surprised this house didn't explode.

"For me it is astonishing," said Leo Fernandez who uses the bus stop directly in front of the home. "I am here every day, if it explodes I could've died."

Detectives seized approximately 64 plants, approximately 50 pounds, of marijuana.

Police also discovered a cockfighting ring in the backyard with both live and dead roosters.

Word of the discovery was upsetting for Lametta Smith, a teacher at the Greater Miami Adventist Academy which is right across the street from the home.

"It's devastating because here is a school with over four hundred children and anything could've happened," said Smith. "I don't feel good about it. I mean my kids come here you know. I mean it's just bad news."

The couple who live in the home, 46-year old Julio Valdes and 50-year old Lazara Lopez, were arrested. They face a number of charges including drug possession and trafficking within a thousand feet of a school.  On Tuesday a judge set bond for the couple at $43,000.  Also, they must prove the money put up for bail came from legal sources.

Lazara Lopez_Julio Valdes
Lazara Lopez and Julio Valdes are charged with drug possession and trafficking. (Source: Miami-Dade Police)

Police say this latest case is not related to a major cockfighting ring in Homestead discovered in April. About 200 people were arrested when authorities moved in on the property.

It's also not connected to other underground marijuana growing operations uncovered in the last two weeks.

Last Tuesday, investigators found a sophisticated operation at a home located at 12485 SW 220 Street, just a few homes away from where another marijuana grow lab was discovered.

Investigators said that elaborate set-up was completely concealed from view beneath the backyard. The discovery last week came just one day after officials busted a clandestine lab containing more than 20 pot plants hidden beneath a concrete slab and an above-ground swimming pool.

Police said they believe those cases are connected.


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