ROYAL HIGHLANDS — A huge grow-house operation north of Weeki Wachee that police raided last week and a massive "marijuana factory'' in an upscale area near Brooksville that was raided in December are linked, authorities said Monday.
Two men and a woman were arrested Friday in connection with the marijuana operation at 8264 Nightwalker Road. Hung Dinh, 31, Lam Dinh, 37, and Kim Nguyen, 33, all of Tampa, face charges of drug trafficking, possession of drug paraphernalia and tampering with a utility meter.
They were being held without bail at the Hernando County Jail on Monday. Another person taken into custody from the home was later released and not charged.
The Dinhs, who are brothers, and Nguyen all come from Vietnam, authorities say, just like the two men who were arrested during the raid of a grow house at 15234 Morgan Lane on Dec. 19. Law officers seized 395 high-quality plants and found evidence of 540 more that were already harvested in what they called a marijuana factory.
In December, Viet Khac Dinh, 34, and Tuan Nguyen, 37, were taken into custody and charged with marijuana trafficking, grand theft and tampering with a meter. Each later posted bail of $30,500, entered a plea of not guilty and faces arraignment in Hernando County on March 18.
Authorities pointed to a possible connection in the arrest affidavits for the Dinh brothers and Kim Nguyen, saying "this house was found to be related to 15234 Morgan Lane."
Property records show the beige, concrete-block house is owned by Vuong Doan, who bought it for $407,000 on July 25. Doan was not arrested Friday and it is unclear if he has a role in the operation, authorities said.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Donna Black and Jeannette Moran, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman in Miami, had no further comment about the arrests Monday.
When federal agents and sheriff's deputies served a search warrant at 8264 Nightwalker Road about 8 a.m. Friday, they found what they described as one of the largest local drug harvests in recent memory. Authorities seized more than 300 plants, a bag of trimmings weighing 304 pounds and another 34.5 pounds of processed and packaged marijuana. The plants filled seven rooms of the one-story house.
"That's one of the bigger ones I've heard of in the past couple years," Moran told the St. Petersburg Times on Friday. "I can't recall any bigger than that."
Moran said each plant could yield a pound of marijuana and that since the plants were grown hydroponically, a method of growing plants in water instead of soil, they could be harvested as often as four times a year. Each plant's street value is about $3,500.
"You can see why, moneywise, why they do it," Moran said.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 754-6120.