More than 200 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were seized from a Dunnellon home during a power theft investigation, Citrus County Sheriff's deputies say.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Tactical Impact Unit and Withlacoochee River Electric Co-op (WREC) conducted a power theft investigation at 5783 W Grovepark Rd in Dunnellon, a release states.
During the investigation,deputies say two power diversions were discovered with power leading to the house and a tractor trailer located in the backyard. A search warrant for the property was obtained and entry was made into the house and trailer.
According to deputies, a large marijuana grow operation consuming the entire home and trailer was discovered.
The total plant count for both structures was 236 plants in various stages of development, deputies say.
The seizure was the largest grow operation for the Sheriff's Office to date this year.
No arrests were made in the case.
Neighbor Sue Norton told ABC Action News she'd often see a couple at the home, but not daily.
"We've never known anything like this to happen," said Norton.
Norton described the community as quiet and being occupied by retirees.
ELECTRIC CO-OP: THIS IS PANDEMIC
According to David Lambert, the member relations manager for WREC, told ABC Action News this is the fifth power theft investigation leading to a grow house in the past 10 days.
"This is a pandemic, not only for us but across the state," explained Lambert.
Lambert says since 2006, the electric company has busted 215 grow houses, including 103 in Pasco County, 90 in Hernando County, 20 in Citrus County and one in Sumter County.
"We've lost five million dollars in stolen energy and damage to our equipment," Lambert added.
Lambert told ABC Action News these are just the grow houses that have made it on to their radar. He estimates their losses and damages could be as high as $15 million.
He described the grow house in Dunnellon and being highly sophisticated.
"it is all automated, very sophisticated and they're not even there. They just come back and check the house periodically," Lambert said.
In this house, there were fans, air conditioners and lights that were also automated, Lambert says.
He estimates the amount of power stolen was about $5,000 worth.
"Typically they are running about the size of a McDonald's restaurant in energy that they use each and every day," Lambert explained.
In order to make up for the lost money, the 222,000 WREC members are paying more in their electric bills.
"Not happy, light bill is already high," Norton said.
WREC OFFERING REWARD FOR TIPS
WREC officials are hoping members of the community can help them catch these crooks.
According to Lambert, if someone reports an anonymous tip that leads them to a grow house using stolen energy and there is a conviction, the tipster will get $500.