BILOXI, Miss. — Authorities have raided four homes along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and have dismantled what they described as very elaborate marijuana growing operations. Harrison County Sheriff Melvin Brisolara said they are connected.
"They are all intertwined together, all these cases. It's a group of individuals, there are still more involved, but this associates back to the arrests in the cases we had back in October of last year," Brisolara said.
Authorities said the drug trafficking organization operated out of Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.
Brisolara said a traffic stop tipped off authorities. The Drug Enforcement Agency called the sheriff's department after confiscating 44 pounds of marijuana from two cars in Alabama last week.
"One of them did live in the residence on Beatline Road in Long Beach," Brisolara said. "Once we got that information, we did research. And upon completing the investigation, we found out about the other locations."
Inside the houses, authorities found thousands of dollars of plant growing equipment. Equipment was the only thing taken from a house in Ocean Springs. But at the Long Beach, investigators found at least 108 pot plants. They confiscated 168 plants in Pass Christian and 120 in Biloxi.
"I don't think any home had anybody actually living in them," Brisolara said about the homes. "We don't know how close these individuals were working but we know they were all involved with each other."
Five people have been arrested — William L. Gainza-Zaldivar of Long Beach; Yordan Gonzales-Mendoza and Reinier Gonzalez Guerra, both of Gonzales, La., Olfidio Morera Munoz and Reinier Brito Aguiar, both of Miami.
Gainza-Zaldivar was driving the vehicle stopped on Interstate 10 in Alabama.
Brisolara said each of the five has been accused in an arrest warrant of cultivation of marijuana and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. They will be charged once they are extradited from Alabama to Mississippi.
In addition, authorities are searching for three others, identified as Luis Cubillas-Fernandez, Carlos Rojas and Argelio Rojas on related charges. No hometowns are available.