Police: Pot-growing operation uncovered in northeast Harris County

May 14, 2013 4:02:33 PM PDT
A raid Tuesday morning on a seemingly normal home in northeast Harris County uncovered a marijuana growing operation right in the middle of a neighborhood.

Investigators with the Precinct 1 Constable's Office say they believe the ringleader of that grow house on the north side is actually the owner of the Southside Smoke Shop. They say it's been a long investigation in coming.

In the middle of the night, in a nondescript house in northeast Harris County, Precinct 1 constables made a major pot bust. They found more than 300 pounds of marijuana, worth at least $1.2 million.

"We're all shocked," said neighbor Robert Trevino. "This is a real peaceful neighborhood. Wow, surprising."

When they confiscated the pot, investigators arrested three men, including the alleged ringleader James Gates, who happens to also own Southside Smoke Shop, located on the Gulf Freeway near Almeda Genoa.

Constables say the grow house was elaborate, with each room of the house being used in some form. Neighbors say they always thought the house was a little odd.

"I never smelled anything, but I was thought it was weird that a single guy lived in a big old house," said neighbor Dora Rodriguez. "But then the neighbors did say they always smelled it."

But it wasn't a neighbor who tipped off investigators. In early April, Precinct 1 constables stumbled on to several hundred pounds of discarded marijuana near the Hobby Airport area. Evidence seized there led to a multi-week investigation, which eventually lead to his grow house, $1.2 million worth of pot, three men arrested and a neighborhood in shock.

"We just heard a big bang and my kids thought it was a gunshot, a couple of gunshots, but it ended up being that they knocked the door down," said Rodriguez.

Investigators say the Southside Smoke Shop is known for its annual block parties, with one scheduled this week. People at the smoke shop would not comment on any of this, and the party is currently planned to continue as scheduled.

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