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OfflineSpaceMonkey
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Truck At Hydroponics Store Traced Pot Raided
    #416469 - 05/12/10 04:56 PM (6 years, 6 months ago)

Narcotics detective Michael Papamichael kept seeing the same black Ford F-150 pickup truck parked behind Simply Hydroponics, a business that sells grow lights, nutrients and other products designed for indoor agriculture.

Papamichael saw the truck five times between Jan.  6 and Feb.  19, according to court documents released last week, and that got the detective thinking.  He checked to see who that truck belonged to, and where the driver might have set up an account with Progress Energy Corp.  for electricity.

This is how the Pinellas sheriff’s narcotics squad was led to a string of warehouses behind a U.S.  19 strip plaza this month.  There they found 460 marijuana plants and more than $12,000 in cash, the court documents say.

Allan Bednar, co-owner of Simply Hydroponics, was taken aback when he heard Tuesday that detectives identified a suspect by jotting down the license tag of a truck presumably driven by one of his customers.

“If they don’t have anything better to do, there’s not much I can do about it,” Bednar said.  “I’m surprised …  it seems there are more problems around of a more serious nature.”

Bednar wondered aloud whether the sheriff’s office was exposing itself to potential lawsuits though the surveillance technique.  “We’re a gardening supply store,” Bednar said.  It caters to professors, students and teachers, as well as homeowners, and if detectives begin showing up at their doors, it could be considered harassment, he said.

The F-150 was registered to the man investigators initially believed was running the marijuana grow operation at the warehouses, the documents say.  He is identified in the documents as Stephen E.  Sweetwood, 51, of Seminole, the court records say.

The warehouses “” located behind the Four Seasons Plaza, 39070 U.S.  19 N., Palm Harbor “” were raided March 9 after sheriff’s narcotics investigators obtained a search warrant.

That day, authorities said a man had been taken into custody and was cooperating with them.  They would not identify the man then and they are not doing so now.  Pinellas sheriff’s spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said Tuesday that no arrests have been made in the case, and the investigation is ongoing.

According to the affidavit accompanying the search warrant, however, the focus of the investigation, at least before the search, was Sweetwood.

Sweetwood became a target after his truck was spotted repeatedly at Simply Hydroponics at 7949 Ulmerton Road in Largo, the court records say.  Investigators then looked to see where a power bill might be in Sweetwood’s name, and they were told by Progress Energy Corp.  that Sweetwood had an account for one of the warehouses behind the plaza, the affidavit says.

When Papamichael and another detective went to the warehouse complex, they found five air-conditioners mounted to an outside wall that were in operation the entire time the detectives were there, with a generated temperature of 44 degrees.  They also smelled marijuana coming from the exhaust of four of the five air conditioning units, but the smell of marijuana was evident no where else outside, the affidavit says.

Detectives then found the four warehouse units that were emitting the smell of marijuana were not in Sweetwood’s name, but rather in the name of Jeffrey G.  McCubbins, 46, of Hudson, the affidavit says.  The one air conditioning unit that was in Sweetwood’s name was not emitting the smell of marijuana, the affidavit says.

The three warehouses for which detectives obtained their search warrant “” and which were using inordinate amounts of power “” had accounts for electricity in McCubbins’ name, the affidavit says, and McCubbins had previously been suspected of distributing marijuana.  Still, detectives noted that Sweetwood had access to one of the three warehouses, and he is “involved in the cultivation of marijuana within said warehouses,” the affidavit says.

Efforts to reach Sweetwood and McCubbins were unsuccessful.  Neither man has a listed telephone number.

Pubdate: Wed, 18 Mar 2009
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2009 The Tribune Co.
Contact: http://www.tbo.com/news/opinion/submissionform.htm
Website: http://www.tampatrib.com/


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OfflineSpaceMonkey
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Registered: 02/09/09
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Re: Truck At Hydroponics Store Traced Pot Raided [Re: SpaceMonkey]
    #416470 - 05/12/10 04:56 PM (6 years, 6 months ago)

Now that's GAY!


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