ESTANCIA, N.M. (AP) — A man wanted in the case of a huge marijuana plantation that a couple of hunters stumbled upon in the Manzano Mountains is now in custody, authorities said.
KRQE-TV reports (http://bit.ly/Ryk6PI) that Torrance County Sheriff's Department said this week that U.S. marshals recently arrested Joseph Hazle in Texas. He will soon be extradited back to New Mexico to face charges for the illegal plants on his property.
In September, two hunters told deputies that they stumbled upon the plantation and four men started shooting at them. The men escaped before authorities arrived on the scene, police said.
Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said the plantation was powered by an elaborate setup of generators and pumps. Around 400 pot plants were tucked away in the mountains, he said.
According to authorities, Hazle is one of four men wanted in the case that may have Mexican drug cartel connections. Detectives said they were not sure at first if Hazle knew about the illegal plantation on his property but now think he had knowledge of the operation.
White said they have evidence Hazle was there when the pot was planted.
It was not known if Hazle had an attorney.
The Torrance County case comes as law enforcement agencies say they are finding more marijuana growers running elaborate and self-sufficient operation in isolated regions in states like New Mexico.
In September, for example, authorities busted up a marijuana operation around the Four Corners region that used solar panels to pump water. Agents raided the facility and seized around 250 marijuana plants that were between six- to eight-feet tall in an isolated area of Rio Arriba County.
In 2010, police in Socorro, N.M., pulled more than 1,500 plants from three locations in a marijuana operation that detectives called "very elaborate and sophisticated." Police said the operation use solar panels, water pumps, batteries and hundreds of yards of hose that functioned on timers.
Information from: KRQE-TV, http://www.krqe.com