16 arrested in Pueblo County marijuana busts

PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. — Sixteen people have been arrested in connection with two unrelated marijuana grows in Pueblo County, according to the sheriff’s office.

The two grows were discovered Monday on opposite sides of the county. Deputies said tips from the public led them to both grows.

The first grow was at a home on North Bear Gulch Lane in Pueblo West. Deputies went to the home around 2:15 p.m. Monday and spoke with one of the tenants, 33-year-old Ely Smith. Smith told deputies the grow operation belonged to him and his wife, and that he was growing the marijuana for medicinal purposes. Deputies said he was unable to provide proper paperwork for the grow.

Deputies went to the basement and found several people using commercial-grade trimming equipment to harvest and process marijuana plants. Several of the people told deputies they had volunteered to help Smith and weren’t being paid, according to the sheriff’s office. Smith told deputies he didn’t know everyone who was doing the work, but said they were family and friends who had moved to Colorado from Florida.

Deputies seized about 250 pounds of dried marijuana and about 57 plants in various stages of growth, along with cultivation equipment.

The following suspects were arrested in connection with the grow. They are each charged with cultivation of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute:

  • Ely Smith, 33
  • Varano Lazaro, 47
  • Keita Ayala, 32
  • Shirley Marjanovic, 39
  • Vladimir Montano, 50
  • Roberto Banos-Hinojosa, 43
  • Noivel Cruz-Perea, 32
  • Teodoro Nunez, 36
  • Jose Rodriguez, 51
  • Javier Pardo, 43
  • Yareza Lopez, 39
  • Yuliet Alvarez, 40
  • Yanitza Pardo, 20
  • Daniel Rodriguez, 44

The second grow was at a home on U.S. 50 East in Avondale. Deputies searched the property and found more than 70 plants in a detached four-car garage, according to the sheriff’s office. A woman and a girl at the home told deputies they had recently moved from Louisiana, had only lived in the home for about a month, and didn’t know about the grow. Another man at the home told deputies he was visiting and didn’t know who owned the grow.

During the investigation, deputies learned that two people who weren’t at the home claimed responsibility for the grow, but could not provide documentation to show it was legal.

The man, 32-year-old Diosniel Hernandez, was arrested for cultivation of marijuana and on a warrant for a protective order violation. The woman, 48-year-old Suyapa Isabel Castillo-Meraz, was arrested for cultivation of marijuana.

Deputies said they’re still investigating both grow operations.

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