When law enforcement officers last week closed in on a massive suspected illegal marijuana grow in Garfield County, they found people trying to destroy evidence at the site off Interstate 70, according to a federal search warrant.
Others were fleeing the area as officers closed in, only to find thousands of plants growing outdoors behind a tall green fence, the document says.
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The warrant, reviewed Wednesday by The Denver Post, says investigators quickly came to the conclusion that the grow on private property was part of a marijuana trafficking organization.
The document provides more details about the raid by federal agents and local law enforcement, including how authorities discovered the operation. The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office arrested 14 Chinese nationals, several of whom were suspected to be in the country illegally, in the case.
Investigators began looking into the pot grow after receiving an anonymous tip about the site off Garfield County Road 210.
When two sheriff’s deputies went to investigate, they were confronted by a man who lived at the site — between the towns of Silt and Rifle — who became “extremely agitated” and tried to fight one of the deputies. The deputies then left for a hill overlooking the area and “observed a large field containing what they believed were marijuana plants.”
A county code enforcement officer returned later and began asking a man of “Asian decent” about the marijuana grow, who acted as if he did not understand the questions, the warrant says.
Eventually, local officers at the Drug Enforcement Administration pulled over a U-Haul truck seen leaving the area only to find “a large number of cut marijuana plants, stacked on their side,” the warrant says. A DEA official told The Post the vehicle was carrying some 3,900 pounds of pot.
“There did not appear to be any voids or areas without marijuana inside of the rear compartment,” the warrant said.
On Monday, when authorities went back to the grow site, according to the warrant, they found the flurry of destructive activity and swept the area to prevent further evidence from being destroyed. They then found thousands more marijuana plants.
No charges in the case had been announced as of Wednesday and it was unclear if anyone linked to the grow would be accused under state or federal statutes.
The 14 Chinese nationals taken into custody were released from the Garfield County jail after posting bond, Deputy Walt Stowe, a sheriff’s office spokesman, said last week.
The sheriff’s office said it was investigating if any of those arrested had been labor trafficked. Stowe did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Wednesday.