FCSO busts massive marijuana operation

Manuel de Jesus Diaz Alvarez, 54, was charged with drug trafficking last Tuesday after Franklin County Sheriff’s Office investigators discovered 280 pounds of marijuana being gown at his property on Highway 20 in Spruce Pine.

Sheriff Shannon Oliver said deputies had been giving reports to the drug task force about smelling a strong odor of marijuana while they were sitting in the Spruce Pine Baptist Church parking lot on night shift.

After a report last Monday the smell was particularly strong, the Drug Task Force visited the property and found Alvarez outside mowing the grass. Investigators reported he was “unusually cooperative” and allowed them to investigate a single wide trailer, inside which they found marijuana growing, and his basement, where growing marijuana was mature and nearly ready for harvest.

“You could smell it walking by the house,” Oliver said.

Manuel de Jesus Diaz Alvarez, 54
Manuel de Jesus Diaz Alvarez, 54

Alvarez laid claim to all marijuana in production – investigators said he seemed proud of his operation, which investigators described as a “professional” set-up – 248 plants, with advanced ventilation, lighting and CO2 canisters for best production. The mature plants in the basement alone represented half a million dollars – more than $1 million, counting the plants that were still in early growing stages.

Alvarez’s charge, because of the large quantity, represents a Class A felony, punishable by 10 years to life if he is convicted. “It’s a very serious offense. It’s considered the same as murder under Alabama (as far as sentencing),” district attorney Joey Rushing said. “He’s facing some major prison time if convicted.”

Alvarez, who was deemed a flight risk, had a bond set at $75,000 – higher than most drug trafficking cases, Oliver said.

 

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