GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The confiscation of six tons of pot -- the largest marijuana bust ever made in Kent County -- may be a sign that West Michigan is becoming a major distribution hub for illegal drugs.
The confiscated marijuana was gathered into about 500 bales weighing in at a total of 12,000 pounds.
Acting on a tip, federal agents began watching a warehouse on Linden Avenue near 36th Street in Wyoming last week. On Friday, agents made their move.
The agents pulled over a pickup truck with tool trailer attached to it in Kentwood after observing it leave the warehouse. They found marijuana in the trailer and the warehouse -- actual tons of it.
"It's an enormous amount. I've been in Michigan on and off since 1988 and it's the biggest seizure I've ever seen. It's more like a boarder seizure, and we had it here in western Michigan," said DEA Resident Agent in Charge Michael Yasenchack.
DEA agents told 24 Hour News 8 that the distributors were using a fork lift inside the warehouse to move around the large bales of marijuana.
But the marijuana, Yasenchak said, was not meant to stay in Kent County:
"It's not just destined for Grand Rapids. It's destined for various parts in Michigan and probably surrounding states," said Yasenchak.
The drugs were wrapped in 20-pound bales and ready for distribution to high-level dealers.
The six tons of pot holds a wholesale value of $7 million. It is worth a whopping $12 million on the street.
Agents said all of Michigan - east and west -- is now being looked at as a hub. The reason, agents said, is that distributors are moving to areas where they think they're less likely to get caught.
"A lot of the heat has been turned up in Chicago, and we've realized a lot of our seizures have gone way up in the last year," said Yasenchak.
And on the same night as the Wyoming warehouse bust, agents in Detroit confiscated 200 pounds of marijuana.
Also in Detroit on Friday, they seized more than 100 bricks of cocaine from a car being driven by an 87-year-old man.
Arrested in the Wyoming bust on Friday were Anthony Castro-Gonzales, Tony Frank Disla-Santiago, Flavio Ramos, and Angel Luis DeLeon-DeJesus.
The men were indicted in federal court on Tuesday on charges of possession and conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana.
More arrests may follow.
Busting a major distribution ring is dangerous. Millions of dollars are at stake and dealers count on their product. Often, agents are dealing with large gangs connected to cartels that won't hesitate to use violence to keep the river of cash flowing.
"When violators are dealing with these large quantities, naturally they're going to protect their assets. So, sure, there's a lot of violence involved," said Yasenchak.
Agents said that once the six tons of pot found in the warehouse is processed as evidence, eventually it will all be be burned and destroyed.
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