Pubdate: Fri, 01 Aug 2008 Source: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) Copyright: 2008 The Daily Herald Company Contact: http://www.dailyherald.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/107 Author: Charles Keeshan and Kerry Lester Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm (Cannabis) MCHENRY COUNTY COPS BURN TWO MASSIVE POT FARMS In a 48-hour span, authorities uncovered two massive marijuana farms growing in neighboring McHenry County cornfields, seizing and burning thousands of plants valued at nearly $4 million and arresting a man who they believe lived on one of the sites and tended to the illegal crops full time. Acting on information developed by investigators, McHenry County Sheriff's deputies searched the wooded area in a field near southeast Hebron Wednesday and discovered several cultivation areas where about 2,000 plants measuring three to five feet tall were growing. Nearby they found an encampment that was home to a pair of suspected caretakers who were on the site when deputies arrived. Arrested was Miguel Talavera-Lopez, 24, of Battle Creek, Mich., on a felony charge of unlawful production of cannabis plants. He remained in custody at the McHenry County jail Friday unable to post a $40,000 bond. The second man spotted at the scene fled deputies. Efforts to capture him with the assistance of police dogs and state troopers were unsuccessful. McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren said Friday that two migrant workers were "recruited at a shopping mall in Chicago, brought there, dropped off and paid to tend to it." Sheriff's Sgt. John Koziol said the site was home to a sophisticated operation that appears to have been running longer than just this year. "They had a full camp set up, with a sleeping area, a kitchen, even an area set up as a bathroom," Koziol said. "They used branches to make themselves shelves and had propane tanks for cooking." Deputies also discovered fertilizer, water sprayers and gardening tools on the site. Sheriff's police burned all but about five dozen of the plants seized in the bust, saving only those needed as evidence against Talavera-Lopez, Koziol said. "This was a significant arrest," he said. "We took about 2,000 pounds of marijuana off the street." In a second bust, Sheriff's police Friday morning found another field of 1,800 plants growing about four miles away on McHenry County Conservation District property near southwest Hebron. "We don't know that there's a relationship between the two, but there could be," Nygren said. Plants at both sites were cultivated by "fairly scientific growers" and have comparative street values, Nygren said. The second field also featured a campsite where plant cultivators were living. "It was described to me that it looked like 'Gilligan's Island,'" Nygren said. "There were tables, pots and pans and water. People were living out there 24/7." Police cut, stacked and burned the plants on the second site late Friday morning. Nygren said Sheriff's police were tipped off to the first site by a flyover last fall with the Drug Enforcement Administration. "We saw the field during the flyover and made a note of it. It was already harvested and we figured we'd come back the next summer on the outside chance (the plants) would be growing there again." The discovery of the two sites, Nygren fears, is only the beginning. "This is the tip of the iceberg," he said. "We know that when you're in rural areas like this, this is where these (marijuana farmers) go." Last July, 30,000 marijuana plants were discovered growing in Barrington's Crabtree Nature Center. The crop was estimated to be worth $10 million.