Detectives uncover 'elaborate' pot-growing operation in Ahwatukee home

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Johnny Le By Jennifer Thomas Johnny Le By Jennifer Thomas
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

AHWATUKEE, Ariz. -- Officers and deputies uncovered what they described as an "elaborate growing operation" at an Ahwatukee home after arresting two men who had about seven pounds of pot in their vehicle.

Armed with a search warrant, investigators converged on a home in a gated community in the area of 17th Avenue and Pecos Road Tuesday morning.

According to Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves, officers arrested two men during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 near Tonopah Monday. It's not clear what sparked the stop, but officers found approximately seven pounds of high-grade Northern California marijuana in the vehicle.

According to DPS, officers arrested Johnny Le, 24, and another man, who has not been identified. Those men then led investigators to the Ahwatukee house.

DPS investigators said they smelled the pot growing in the house as soon as they went inside.

Graves said detectives discovered about 100 marijuana plants, along with "elaborate equipment that indicated a sophisticated growing operation" inside the house.

“We believe that they were using the marijuana from California and the sale of that to support the grow operation here in Arizona,” DPS Sgt. Bill Kennedy said.

Detectives said this is one of the largest operations they've seen.

“They have individual pots. They're probably 25-gallon, probably 30 of them, and they're filled with potting soil and then they have artificial lighting and then humidifiers and fans going on in there,” Kennedy explained.

Investigators also found several weapons, including one AK-47, three semi-automatic rifles and a number of pistols.

Le is facing a variety of drug-related charges, as well as weapons charges and money-laundering charges. The second man has not been charged yet.

At this point, it's not clear if there is anybody else involved in the pot-growing operation.

Investigators have not estimated the street value of the marijuana, but according to PriceOfWeed.com, the going rate in Arizona is between $170 and $312 per ounce depending on the quality.

Graves expected to release more information later in the morning.