The discovery of a large outdoor marijuana cultivation site in Lincoln County has resulted in 700 pounds of harvested pot being destroyed and three suspects arrested and formally charged with trafficking in illegal drugs.
The cultivation operation was found near NS 3300 and EW 950 Road, which is southwest of Wellston.
"This was a large scale operation that consisted of a growing area, a processing area," and what appeared to be a tent camp where the workers of the cultivation operation were living, an arrest affidavit shows.
As part of an intensive investigation, three suspects were arrested in southwest Oklahoma City.
Arrested on complaints of trafficking in marijuana were Mario Valencia Ochoa, 34; Juan Jose Gutierrez-Campos, 22; and Jesus Arturo Torres-Barraza, 17.
All three are formally charged with felony trafficking in Lincoln County District Court, with Torres-Barraza charged as a youthful offender.
According to the affidavits in the case, investigators with District Attorney Richard Smothermon's District 23 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force made the marijuana discovery and arrests.
"Investigators seized a large amount of harvested marijuana from this site, which was approximated at around 700 pounds of marijuana," the warrant shows.
The investigation first began last week when Lincoln County Sheriff's Deputy Jack Jackson stopped a vehicle occupied by three males from the Oklahoma City area, according to court documents. Although the deputy wasn't able to get good identifications, he obtained tag information and an Oklahoma City address. That resulted in District 23 Task Force investigators driving to that residence and conducting further investigation over the following days.
Those efforts eventually led to a search warrant for that residence and another home in Oklahoma City. Local task force agents, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation executed those warrants.
Interviews followed, revealing several suspects were living at the grow site for about a month to care for the marijuana crop, although the site was reportedly abandoned when a police helicopter was spotted in the area. The affidavit indicates the workers were allegedly to be paid $200 a day for their time, but never were compensated since authorities seized the crop.
According to affidavits, Ochoa also was allegedly involved in running a previous marijuana grow near Seminole that was dismantled by OBN agents.
Investigators have said growing operations of this size have consistently been linked back to Mexican drug cartels.
Watch for updates.