Fourth suspect turns himself in after police announce raids on Pasco marijuana operation

LAND O'LAKES — The fourth suspect in an upscale marijuana growth operation turned himself in to authorities Wednesday.

Kevin W. Schmitt, a 24-year-old dog groomer, is accused of renting a 2,138-square foot home at 3962 Lake Joyce Drive in Lake Padgett Estates and using it for an elaborate grow house.

It was raided — along with three other luxurious suburban homes — in a raid Tuesday. Authorities said they found 126 marijuana plants at the Lake Joyce home. On Tuesday, they told the public they were looking for Schmitt.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this is Schmitt's second arrest in Florida. He was arrested Aug. 25 in Tampa by the Florida Highway Patrol and charged with possession of a controlled substance, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

The three other homes raided were a lavish 2,347-square-foot home at 3612 Morgans Bluff Court in Plantation Palms in Land O'Lakes; a two-story 1,520-square-foot home at 3115 Downan Point Drive in Ballantrae Village; and a four-bedroom, three-bath home at 1845 Highland Oaks Blvd. in Lutz, which is on the market for $350,000.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office says Robert and Katie Yates rented the Ballantrae and Plantation Palms homes, using the latter strictly as a grow house.

Authorities said the operation included lights on thin metal cables rotating over the plants to simulate the rising and setting of the sun. Deputies said they seized 90 plants, 12 pounds of processed marijuana and nearly $5,000 in cash from those two homes. The plants were labeled with positive thoughts, such as prosperity and financial freedom.

Robert Yates' stepfather, Reinaldo Ramirez, 58, is accused of running the Highland Oaks grow house. According to the Sheriff's Office, 41 more plants and 588 grams of dried marijuana were found there.

Col. Al Nienhuis of the Sheriff's Office, which investigated with the Pinellas County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, said all four operations were related.

Robert Yates, 33, and Katie Yates, 24, were both charged with trafficking marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. They were arrested during the raids Tuesday morning and released that day on $50,150 bail each. Ramirez is charged with cultivation of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was released Tuesday on $5,150 bail.

Schmitt is charged with trafficking and cultivation of marijuana. He remained Thursday at the Land O'Lakes jail in lieu of $55,000 bail.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Fourth suspect turns himself in after police announce raids on Pasco marijuana operation 10/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2009 11:04pm]

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