A Batesville resident and a former resident were among four persons who were arrested following a huge marijuana bust in Indianapolis, according to a Southern District of Indiana United States District Court probable cause affidavit filed June 11.
Christopher Batta, 38, Batesville; Zachary John, 30, Beech Grove, formerly of Batesville; George Dennis, 58, Indianapolis; and Nigel DeChristopher, 36, Beech Grove, were charged with manufacturing marijuana plants and conspiring to manufacture marijuana plants, Special Agent Kevin Steele, Drug Enforcement Administration Indianapolis District Office Task Force Group 52, said in the document.
The four were arrested June 11 and indicted July 7. They are charged with federal felonies and will be tried together Feb. 22, 2016, reported Tim Horty, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Indianapolis.
They were released on their own recognizance. He explained that in this court, "you're either detained or released. There is no bond."
The investigation began in February after Indiana State Police Master Trooper Larry Antic received an anonymous tip that Dennis was growing marijuana at a building on Indianapolis' south side. It was said to be a large-scale operation, and he allegedly had other individuals helping to tend to the growing, the document stated.
At the end of March, Antic started physical surveillance on the building at 1012 E. Sumner Ave. He observed several vehicles parking by the building at various times. He noted that the structure appeared to have been an operating business at one time, but "it does not appear to be a functioning, legitimate business."
Law enforcement also obtained electricity usage information from the warehouse as well as from a control building (a structure in the same area of similar size and structure as the warehouse) to determine "whether the usage of electricity is significantly excessive by comparison and, therefore, potentially indicative of marijuana cultivation."
After obtaining a subpoena, Antic received Indianapolis Power & Light Co. business records on the electrical use and learned that the usage at the Sumner Avenue location was "consistent with the electrical power usage for a large industrial marijuana grow operation," the affidavit revealed.
On June 1, Antic received a federal search warrant for the utilization of a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) device, which was used to reveal the heat signature of the building. It showed a "distinct heat signature around the overhead doors located on the east side of the structure. Based on Trooper Antic's experience, this indicated a heat source was emitting from inside the building."
It was also noted there were two residential type air-conditioning condensers placed on the building's east side and two on the north side. There was also a large commercial roof top air conditioner. "The surface air temperature at the time of the FLIR was 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the Indianapolis area .... Antic knew based upon his training and experience that air conditioners are used to cool indoor marijuana grow operations due to the excessive heat that high pressure grow lights produce."
On June 11, the ISP Special Weapons and Tactics teams arrived at the warehouse. They executed a search warrant and encountered Dennis, Batta and John, who were taken into custody. DeChristopher was arrested later after he returned to the location.
Law enforcement found a "very large and sophisticated indoor marijuana grow operation that included several hundred mature plants growing under extensive artificial lighting with irrigation, marijuana being harvested for drying, marijuana being dried for packaging and packed marijuana ready for distribution. A significant majority of the plants were approximately 7-8 feet in height and several feet in diameter."
Officers observed "an extensive network of plastic tubing running from large holding tanks containing a mixture of fertilized water throughout the warehouse to multiple rows of growing marijuana plants .... (and about) 12 functioning commercial-grade scrubbers that filtered the internal air of the warehouse. The scrubbers help reduce the pungent odor produced by the growing marijuana plants."
They also discovered a "functional tetrahydrocannabinoal extraction laboratory, which was used to manufacture a substance referred to as honey oil, wax or budda."
Horty announced this "was one of the larger grows we have recovered in recent memory." What made it unique was that "it was an indoor grow right in the heart of Indianapolis, not in a rural area.
"In this situation, we felt certain this marijuana was destined to stay in central Indiana .... Any time you can keep drugs off the streets, it makes a significant impact for law enforcement," he added.
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.
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