MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A southwest Miami-Dade family which neighbors described as normal and social were hiding a big secret just below the surface, according to police.
Narcotics detectives discovered a sophisticated underground hydroponics lab in the back yard of their home at 21964 SW 125th Avenue.
Acting on a tip, detective found the underground marijuana grow operation after they smelled marijuana and got a search warrant to check out the pool area behind the residence.
They found a below ground pool had been covered over with a concrete slab on which sat an above ground pool. A nearby shed with a hole in the floor served as an entrance to the underground operation.
“Inside that (empty, below-ground) pool we found over 20 plants of marijuana that was being hydroponically grown,” said Miami-Dade police lieutenant Jose Gonzalez.
The plants, which weighed more than 70 pounds, have a street value of $250,000, according to police.
Police arrested the home’s owner, 41-year old Luis Ramirez Gonzalez, and 38-year old Yamile Gongar who lived there. The couple’s two daughters, an eight year old and a 17-year old, are staying with family members according to police. Lt. Gonzalez says the couple put their kids in danger.
“Hydroponics labs are very dangerous because they can lead to fires or explosions,” said Gonzalez.
Neighbors said they were surprised when they found out what was going on.
“We would smell something randomly from time to time but we would just suspect people but never expected them to have something like that,” said Jenny DeVarona, a neighbor.
“This is a total shock, I never expected this to be going on next to us,” said Alez Sanz.
This is the second time police have discovered pot being grown in covered over below ground pools.
“I think the one thing this grow house speaks to is the sophistication of it. We’re beginning to see a trend, this is the second time we’ve see this, where a grow house is built not only indoors, but in an area that would normally house a pool,” said Miami-Dade Police spokesman Detective Roy Rutland.
In January police seized 80 plants from another underground pool which had been covered over by a concrete slab. The pool was behind a home about 10 miles from the Ramirez Gonzalez home.
“It had the same construction, same type of electrical setup, so we believe it’s the same person or it’s a trend,” said Lt. Gonzalez.
The Ramirez Gonzalez home has been declared unsafe and must stay empty for now. FPL crews cut power to this house to ensure it doesn’t pose a fire hazard in the neighborhood.