Search recovers sophisticated hydroponic marijuana grow operation in Vinton

Running air conditioners on cool day tipped off authorities

April 1, 2014 | 1:29 am

A rural Vinton man was charged this week in federal court after Benton County deputies found a "sophisticated hydroponic marijuana grow operation" with 90 to 100 plants in his trailer while they were searching for another man who had escaped from work release, according to a criminal complaint.

Derek Scott, 50, was charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court with manufacturing marijuana, according to the criminal complaint. A preliminary and detention hearing is set for 2 p.m. Friday. He remains in custody pending the hearing.

Iowa State Probation and Parole High Risk Unit officers, along with deputies, had information that a man who escaped work release on a burglary conviction was living with Scott at 3178 58th St. in Vinton, according to the criminal complaint. Officers couldn't get a response at the house, and when they approached a trailer on the property, they noticed three air conditioning units attached to the trailer were running. They thought it was unusual because it was 60 degrees outside, all the windows were covered with "silver-colored reflective material" and they smelled what they believed to be marijuana coming from inside. There were also multiple  surveillance cameras on the house and trailer.

Drug Enforcement Administration executed a warrant to search the trailer and house. Officers found in the house a rifle, ammunition, drug parphernalia, and suspected marijuana and methamphetamine in Scott's bedroom, according to the complaint. Inside the trailer, officers found the hydroponic grow operation with 90 to 100 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, dried and processed marijuana in plastic bags, containers, glass jars, suspected marijuana plants hanging from the ceiling to dry, numerous firearms including pistols, shotguns and rifles, and ammunition. There was also items associated with an indoor grow operation, such as lighting, fans, watering and fertilization systems, chemicals, and documents that appeared to be notes for tracking the growth operation.

Scott has previous criminal convictions in Linn County, including misdemeanor and felony possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana.

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