5 houses raided in major pot-growing operation

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Four people have been charged after a raid of five suburban houses that were part of a sophisticated marijuana-growing operation in Shakopee, Eagan, Apple Valley, Burnsville and Eagan, according to a criminal complaint.

The smell gave it away, investigators say. Dakota County Drug Task Force agents started investigating the operation in March after a tip about the overwhelming smell of marijuana – the odor from one house could be detected from the curb, the Pioneer Press reports.

The four charged on May 30 with conspiracy to commit second- and third- degree drug felonies: 31-year old Thi An Mac of Burnsville; 31-year-old Nghia Hoang Nguyen of St. Paul; 35-year-old Trang Uyen Mac of Burnsville; and 39-year-old Trung Van Nguyen, of Apple Valley. Nghia Nguyen was convicted in federal court in 2009 for distributing 3,000 tablets of ecstasy, according to the criminal complaint.

Two of the houses, in Shakopee and Apple Valley, were grow houses where pot plants were being cultivated, and officers found a total of 370 plants, the Star Tribune reports. In the Burnsville house, authorities found $126,532 in cash, the newspaper reports. Six vehicles were seized.

To avoid suspicion about huge amounts of power consumed at the grow houses, the growers had used devices that bypass electricity meters, according to the criminal complaint.

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