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'Sophisticated' pot found
Jun 13, 2006 12:00 am
June 7, 2006 – An early morning drug raid at a 36-acre farm north of Lebanon uncovered a "sophisticated," multimillion-dollar marijuana growing operation Tuesday – the second major drug bust in the county in less than a week.
Officers with the Wilson County Sheriff's Department Narcotics Division raided a barn on the property – located off Highway 231 North at 756 Gilmore Hill Road – and found about 100 "high-quality" marijuana plants in a high-tech grow room, Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said.
"In another 30 days, they could have produced about a pound to a pound-and-a-half of dope off of each plant," Ashe said. " … It's such high quality that some of it was probably going for between $5,000 and $6,000 per pound."
Sheriff's department agents arrested 49-year-old Thomas A. Guaraldi, a native of Massachusetts, in conjunction with the raid. Guaraldi has been charged with the manufacturing, sale and delivery of Schedule VI drugs and is being held under $75,000 bond in the Wilson County Jail. Ashe said Guaraldi is scheduled to appear in criminal court Sept. 7.
However, other charges may be in the offing, the sheriff noted.
"We're probably going to go to the grand jury and indict him on maybe some weapons charges and some other narcotics charges," Ashe said, noting the investigation is still "ongoing" as investigators believe the drug operation may have ties elsewhere in the mid-state. " … We feel like this is tied to maybe two or three other possible locations in Middle Tennessee."
Ashe described the find as "a major grow operation" designed to produce hundreds of pounds of marijuana every three to four months.
"You could run it year-round – winter or summer," he said.
The growing system made use of motorized lights which moved along rails, and the plants were grown in a soil-free system commonly known as hydroponics, Ashe explained.
"He had an unusually made watering system that actually was made out of the materials designed to build plastic fence posts," the sheriff said. "It was really sophisticated, the way they had it set up. They could control the temperature of the water, control the temperature of the room and all of these plants … had tremendous root systems. I've never seen anything with root systems like this."
Tuesday morning's raid was the county's second major marijuana bust in less than a week. Last Wednesday, the Lebanon Police Department made the largest narcotics seizure in its history, arresting six men who allegedly attempted to deliver more than 720 pounds of marijuana to the city.
"We've had a lot happen here," Ashe said. "The city took that big drug bust down, and then, we took this one down. We know it's here, and we're working on it. That's what the people want us to do – they want us to work these things … and we're going to keep plugging away at them."
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.