Local News

Sampson deputies seize marijuana plants worth millions

Posted September 4, 2009 11:00 a.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2009 6:38 p.m. EDT

— Law enforcement officers found thousands of marijuana plants with a street value they estimated at $6 million growing in a wooded area near the Black River Thursday, according to the Sampson County Sheriff's Office.

Aerial surveillance found about 2,400 plants growing about a half-mile off Dr. Kerr Road in Ivanhoe, said Capt. Eric Pope, with the Sampson County Sheriff's Office. The 1,800-acre tract is owned by mining company American Materials Inc.

The people growing the marijuana fled the scene before the raid and were illegally squatting on someone else's land, Pope said. No one has been arrested.

"The southern part of Sampson County still has vast wooded areas that are ideal for someone to set up their operation without the risk of being detected easily," Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said. "I'm just thankful we were able to locate the marijuana plants before they ended up in the hands of someone else's child."

Thornton says the squatters are likely Hispanic migrant workers hired by a drug dealer to grow the crop. He called it a sophisticated operation.

Law enforcement agents cut down and confiscated the marijuana plants.

The growers had set up an unsanitary camp site, with tents, food, grooming instruments and irrigation equipment, Pope said.

A toothbrush and razor hung from a branch above a tree where the growers bathed and washed their clothes, he said. A water pump and generator in the creek served as the irrigation system for the plants.

The State Bureau of Investigation, Bladen and Duplin county sheriff's offices, Clinton Police Department and federal Drug Enforcement Agency assisted with the operation.

Investigators found a similar marijuana-growing operation outside Garland in June. Deputies seized 11,000 plants they said were worth $27 million.