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Marijuana Plants, Pet Monkey Seized After Police Bust Cubans' Grow Operation

By: Jim Melwert and Alexandria Hoff

NORTH COVENTRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) -- Chester County authorities say they have busted a marijuana grow operation that was run by Cuban nationals.

The Chester County District Attorney's Office said in a statement that three Cuban nationals were arrested for running a marijuana grow operation in North Coventry Township, as authorities seized over 100 plants ready to produce approximately 200 pounds of marijuana.

"This was a sophisticated grow operation," Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement. "The defendants, with ties to Cuba and Florida, clearly are part of an organized criminal network. It was their bad luck to try an operation like this in Chester County."

The statement says that when North Coventry police were serving a search warrant on March 24 at the residence of 41-year-old Berto Quinones, officers saw Quinones leave with two other suspects -- 34-year-old Yordanky Hevia-Martinez and 46-year-old William Delgado -- in a black Audi with temporary New Jersey license plates.

Hogan says, "The police could literally smell raw marijuana when they got to within a couple of hundred feet within the residence."

On top of the marijuana plants, police say they seized items used to grow and harvest marijuana, including lighting, fertilizer, fans, and other material.

"They also found a marmoset monkey in among all the marijuana," said Hogan. "It's funny, all of these hardcore drug guys who came in the investigation not to tell us that there were over 100 plants of marijuana in there but to say there's a really cute monkey in there."

Hogan says the monkey was sent to an animal refuge.

Police say the suspects bypassed the electrical meter at the residence to gain access to the electricity they needed to run the operation.

"When you use that amount of electricity you are clearly using it for an illicit purpose, often for marijuana grow operations," said Hogan.

"This case is another example of inter-agency cooperation between North Coventry Township Police Department, DEA, Pennsylvania State Police, and the Chester County District Attorney's Office," North Coventry Police Chief Bob Schurr said in a statement. "Through this cooperative working relationship, we were able to rid our community of a substantial amount of marijuana that would have potentially been distributed throughout the region. This ongoing relationship shows the dedication that all law enforcement has to rid our communities of illicit drugs."

The suspects were arrested and remanded to Chester County Prison. They have been charged with felony drug trafficking offenses.

The group has also been tied to Mexico, and investigators belive this growing operation was just part of a larger nationwide, perhaps worldwide network.



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