2 arrested in marijuana-growing operation at Harvey house

When Lauree Holmes’ new neighbor first moved in behind her in the Woodmere subdivision he seemed like a nice guy.

He was never home, but she figured that made sense because he had told her he was a college student in New Orleans. It was also strange that lights would go on at the oddest times of night, but Holmes knew that college students studied late. And although her neighbor’s luxury vehicle seemed at odds with the typical finances of a college student, Holmes assumed his parents must be helping him out financially.

She was very wrong.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested Holmes’ neighbor, Derrick Le, 27, of 2337 Park Place Drive in Terrytown, on Sunday and booked him with a host of charges related to the operation of what authorities deemed an elaborate marijuana-growing operation inside an inconspicuous two-story home in Harvey.

Authorities also found about 120 grams of marijuana and a gun at Le’s Terrytown home, according to the report. Le was booked with distribution and manufacture of marijuana, possession of a Schedule 1 controlled substance with intent to distribute and aggravated criminal damage to property. He remains in custody at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna in lieu of $60,000 bond.

Jesus Bustos, 57, of 3217 Pecan Drive in Chalmette, also was arrested in connection with the incident, and he appears to have been Le’s roommate at one point, according to the report.

Le’s arrest came as the result of a fire at a home he rented in the 2400 block of Woodmere Boulevard in Harvey on Sunday morning. According to an arrest report, firefighters found several marijuana plants when they entered the building.

Firefighters contacted the Sheriff’s Office, which obtained a search warrant and began examining the building, the report said.

Investigators found 241 plants in the home. The plants were housed in simple black flower pots and covered the floors. Black plastic tarp had been placed on the floor throughout the home, and several holes had been cut into the walls and ceiling. Large black pallets of materials where strewn throughout the home, which did not appear to be inhabited.

According to the report, firefighters believe the fire began because of an illegal electrical hookup that was allowing the theft of electricity. Visible burn marks surrounded an electrical breaker box on the side of the home.

Col. John Fortunato declined to release additional details on the growing operation, citing an ongoing investigation.

Holmes said she felt “shocked” and “betrayed” when authorities alerted her about the grow house. She remembers when Le moved into the home in October, and was angry at the lies he fed her to win her confidence.

Holmes said Le claimed to be a student at Xavier University, and to have family living in Woodmere. Her husband even cut the grass in her neighbor’s backyard because the absence of a fence between the lawns made it seem like one big yard.

“They played us,” Holmes said. “We never suspected anything like that.”

Holmes said that occasionally several men would move in and out of the home, but mostly the building sat dormant. She can’t understand how the owner of the home failed to notice that the entire building had been taken over by a marijuana-growing operation, or that his tenants were stealing electricity. Holmes, who is a member of the Woodmere Neighborhood Watch Association, said she feels violated.

“I don’t really appreciate it,” she said.

Eric Eidson is listed as owner of the home, but he declined to comment Monday.

via : Nola

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