DENVER (AP) - Sixteen people have been indicted and accused of running a massive home-grown marijuana operation in the greater Denver area.
Authorities say that over about three years, the group used houses in places like Colorado Springs, Elbert County and Denver to cultivate marijuana and then make big-dollar deals to sell it in Illinois, Arkansas, Minnesota and Missouri, The Denver Post reported Friday.
Authorities began investigating the operation in August after investigators searched an Elizabeth, Colorado, property where they found more than 2,500 pounds of marijuana, which officials estimate is worth about $5 million.
18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler says this is the largest such case he has ever seen.
"In a nutshell, this was about home-grown, local folks growing and exporting marijuana (for sale) out of the state of Colorado," Brauchler said at a news conference Friday afternoon. "This operation that was shut down effectively by the indictments and warrants that were issued was generating about 300-plus pounds of finished marijuana each month."
Law enforcement officers from Colorado Springs to Denver worked with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prosecutors on the case.
Authorities over the past year have been focusing on cracking down on marijuana being illegally grown in homes for out-of-state sale. Barbra Roach, chief of the DEA's Denver division, said her office is working on several similar cases that are pending indictments.
In 2012, Colorado joined Washington in 2012 as the first states to legalize recreational use of the drug.
"Yes, residents of Colorado, and people that I'll call 'transplants to Colorado,' are moving here (and) becoming involved in the marijuana industry with the expressed purpose of hiding their illicit proceeds and their illicit activities in plain sight under some of the laws that we have," Roach said. ". We're seeing ourselves as a larger source of supply than we ever were before."