4 men with ties to Cuba arrested in illegal marijuana grows in Pueblo

PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. — Four people, all with ties to Cuba, were arrested Monday morning after conducting operations at two related illegal marijuana grow sites, the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office said.

More than 365 marijuana plants, worth an estimated street value of $1 million, were seized along with five weapons and various types of grow equipment after searches at homes in eastern and northern Pueblo County.

Detectives executed search warrants early Monday morning in the 1800 block of 58th Lane and in the 5000 block of Quail Road near Midway Ranch after receiving tips of possible illegal marijuana cultivation operations being conducted at the sites.

At the first residence, detectives found three indoor commercial-type grows that contained a combined 85 mature marijuana plants.

The grows were in separate locations, and each was modified with elaborate lighting and irrigation systems to specifically grow marijuana.

Jose Alberto Gonzalez, 31, Sergio Luis Martinez-Suarez, 44, and Yoandris Bacallao-Ramos, 40, were arrested, the sheriff’s office said.

They were arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana and conspiracy. They were booked into Pueblo County Jail.

At the Quail Road location, detectives discovered two large outdoor grows, including one that was fenced in and hidden under a large fabric awning.

The grows yielded a combined 283 mature plants.

Francisco Jose Sanchez, 50, was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and special offender. He was booked into the Pueblo County Jail.

Detectives believe all of the suspects know each other and the grow operations are related. The marijuana was believed to have been grown in Pueblo County, and processed and shipped out of Colorado for sale.

“This is another example of people coming from out-of-state to grow marijuana illegally to then sell it on the black market,” Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor said.

“What’s concerning to me is they are infiltrating nearly every corner of our county with this type of illegal activity.”

Taylor added the illegal grows are damaging to the environment and hazardous to the area because of the type of chemicals used for fertilizer, and the extensive alterations made to electrical and watering systems to grow the plants.

It’s the second and third sizable busts made by the sheriff’s office in Pueblo County in the past seven days.

On Oct. 2, detectives arrested nine people, including a juvenile, and seized more than 800 marijuana plants in various stages of growth along with an estimated 500 pounds of dried product from a field in the 7800 block of Highway 96.

Only one of the nine suspects was a U.S. citizen. The others were Mexican citizens, the sheriff’s office said.