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Two plead guilty in pot growing case

Two men indicted in a Lutz pot-growing operation have agreed to plead guilty in federal court. Sentencing of Michael Ray Clayton and Michael Allen Powers, both 26, is scheduled for July 11 before U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew.

Prosecutors say Clayton paid Powers $700 a month to grow marijuana in a house at the southeast corner of Hanna and Vandervort roads in Lutz. When detectives searched the house last Sept. 15, they found a variety of marijuana-growing equipment, 108 marijuana plants, and Powers.

Investigators had been tipped that Clayton was involved, and he was arrested later. Powers admitted the marijuana was their second crop.

Before obtaining the search warrant, detectives determined that large quantities of electricity were being used in the house, apparently by growing lamps. In a wee-hours check, detectives measured unusual heat, also from the lamps, emerging from one end of the house.

The men initially were charged in state court. Then the cases were pursued instead by federal prosecutors because the potential sentences are longer under federal drug laws. However, prosecutors have agreed in the plea deals not to oppose the men's requests to invoke several sentence-lowering policies.