By Janine Anderson
DOVER — The Racine County Sheriff’s Department used Google Earth — an online mapping program — last week to pinpoint marijuana fields in Mount Pleasant and bust a Racine man for harvesting pot.
The investigation began Friday after Racine County Sheriff’s deputies pulled over Dean Brown, 37, of Racine, near highways 75 and 20, according to a criminal complaint. A deputy smelled marijuana as he approached the car, and discovered 18 pounds of freshly harvested marijuana in the car’s cargo area. The marijuana, stuffed in two large garbage bags with heavy stems poking through the plastic, was worth between $63,000 and $140,000.
Brown was arrested for felony drug possession, but that was just the beginning of the investigation. Deputies found a GPS unit around Brown’s neck with coordinates to areas throughout Racine County, the complaint said.
On Saturday, Metro Drug agents plugged coordinates saved in Brown’s GPS unit into Google Earth, a searchable compilation of satellite images available through the Internet. By entering the coordinates, agents were able to find the locations in Racine County programmed into the GPS unit.
Members of the Metro Drug Unit went to two sites off Dover Line Road, near where Brown was arrested. They first found six plants tied to corn stalks with string to hold them up. The roots had vermiculite around them, which is often used to start plants at home before transplanting them elsewhere. The next site had two plants growing in a field.
Authorities confiscated the plants, bagged them in burlap and locked them away to dry.
On Sunday, agents entered additional coordinates into Google Earth and found a grow site in Mount Pleasant, between Highway C, Kraut Road and Interstate 94. They found two plots in a very large cornfield, and pulled out three plants.
Brown faces six criminal charges: possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, and four counts of manufacturing marijuana.
Brown has been charged as a repeat drug offender, which increases his possible prison time for felony charges by four years. If convicted on all charges, he could face a maximum penalty of $90,500 in fines and 59 years in prison.