While executing a search warrant at a Chester County home last week, authorities found and shut down what they called a significant marijuana growing operation.
They discovered more than 100 mature marijuana plants and the tools needed to grow them, and also stumbled upon a marmoset monkey that was being illegally kept in the house, authorities said Tuesday.
Three men believed to be behind the illegal drug operation were arrested after trying to drive away from the house on the 900 block of Malvern Drive in North Coventry Township, Police Chief Bob Schurr said.
The men are from Cuba and in the country legally, Schurr said. Authorities said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been notified of their arrests.
Berto Quinones, 41, William Delgado, 46, and Yordanky Hevia-Martinez, 34, were charged with manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver drugs, a felony, and related offenses. Quinones lived in the house, but the other two men, who gave Florida addresses, were believed to have also resided there, Schurr said.
Schurr said police were first notified of an alleged marijuana growing operation at the house after a hunter told the Pennsylvania Game Commission that he smelled marijuana in the area of the house.
Police had been watching the house since September 2014, but it wasn't until last week that authorities had probable cause to obtain a search warrant, based on information from a confidential informant, Schurr said.
About 7 p.m. Friday, as police went to serve the search warrant, they saw the men leaving the house in a black 2012 Audi Q7 with temporary New Jersey license plates, authorities said. When police stopped the car about a quarter of a mile away, they smelled a strong odor of raw marijuana inside the SUV, authorities said.
Schurr said a western regional Montgomery County SWAT team went into the house and secured it. Inside the house, authorities found the marijuana plants and items to grow them, including lighting, fertilizer and fans. The Pennsylvania State Police were called in to dismantle the operation. "The house was a toxic environment," Schurr said.
The Animal Rescue League of Berks County has taken the monkey and, working with the state Game Commission, found a legal home for it, Schurr said.
Meanwhile, the defendants are in the Chester County Prison. They did not make bail which was set at $250,000 each for Delgado and Hevia-Martinez, and at $100,000 for Quinones.
During the search, authorities also discovered that the men had been stealing electricity for their operation by bypassing the electrical meter, authorities said. In addition to drug offenses, Quinones was charged with theft of services.
"This was a sophisticated grow operation," Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan said in a statement. "The defendants, with ties to Cuba and Florida, clearly are part of an organized criminal network. It was their bad luck to try an operation like this in Chester County."