Authorities destroy 14,000 plants Richmond Co.

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Date published: 8/17/2010

Authorities in Richmond County have found and destroyed more than 14,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of nearly $44 million, Sheriff Douglas A. Bryant announced yesterday.

Two similar patches were discovered last week in woodlands at opposite ends of the county, Bryant said. He said police are investigating a possible link between the growing operations in the Northern Neck and a violent Mexican drug cartel.

A tip last Wednesday led to the discovery of the first patch off China Hill Road near Montross. It contained 6,138 plants worth an estimated $19 million, Bryant said.
The next day, Bryant said, two Hispanic men fled into the woods when Richmond and Northumberland county deputies approached them.

Jamie Ramirez-Duarte, 23, was arrested. The other man is still being sought, Bryant said.
"We determined that Ramirez-Duarte is in this country illegally," Bryant said. "He stated that he lives on the property in a tent and his sole job is taking care of the plants."
Bryant said Ramirez-Duarte told police that the Los Zetas drug cartel of Mexico threatened to kill his family if he did not tend to the plants.

"At this time, we have not confirmed this information," Bryant said. He said his department would continue to work with other police agencies, including the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency "to determine if the information regarding the Los Zetas drug cartel gang activity has a connection with this area."
The cartel is known for its violent tactics and is believed to have established branches in Texas, California and perhaps other states, according to Wikipedia.
Ramirez-Duarte is charged with possession of more than five pounds of marijuana, a felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. He remains in the Northern Neck Regional Jail pending a court appearance Friday, Bryant said.
The county's second big marijuana discovery occurred Saturday when a Virginia Army National Guard helicopter spotted another patch in the woods off Conley Pond Road near Farnham, Bryant said.
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