BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Deputies with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office (EBRSO) say they have uncovered a marijuana “cultivation and distribution network” spanning two parishes in a joint operation with four other law enforcement agencies.
“The people that come into our area and just set up a growing operation...I mean it was well done the way they did it they had everything set up to accomplish what they were doing”, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux told WAFB.
Investigators say a week-long investigation resulted in the arrests of five suspects, seizure of nearly $50,000 in cash, and the seizure of approximately 1,650 marijuana plants.
EBRSO narcotics detectives say the investigation began after receiving a tip from the narcotics division of the Pike County Sheriff’s Office in Pike County, Miss.
Narcotics officers say they uncovered four facilities illegally growing marijuana: two in East Baton Rouge Parish and two in Livingston Parish.
“The communication between all these agencies to make this thing happen was phenomenal. And to be able to hit 7 locations at the same time and do what they did and recover all the marijuana and all that stuff is just amazing and true dedication and just kudos to our guys because they did a phenomenal job”, Livingston Sheriff Jason Ard said.
Authorities say the leader of the operation, Assad Layous, 37, of Baton Rouge, was arrested after deputies executed a search warrant at his home on Wednesday, March 17.
He was arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute (PWITD) marijuana, PWITD psilocybin, cultivation of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Four other individuals were arrested in connection with the drug network on Wednesday. Layous will also face charges in Livingston Parish, investigators say.
Carmen Coetzee, 30, was arrested on charges of possession of cocaine, PWITD of marijuana, possession of a firearm with a controlled substance. Michael Conway, 30, Kamal Shash, 28, and Gavin Laborde, 26, were all arrested on the charge of PWITD of marijuana.
Marc Coetzee, 28, was arrested by deputies in Livingston Parish in connection with the alleged drug ring. See photos of the suspects arrested in the gallery below.
Once Layous was in custody, authorities conducted a coordinated bust at all of the grow locations, according to EBRSO.
Investigators say search warrants were executed at a total of six locations in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes on Wednesday.
Detectives say they discovered a building the drug network used for stashing and distributing marijuana and other drugs at a building the in 2800 block of Cedarcrest Avenue in Baton Rouge. A marijuana grow operation was also located in Baton Rouge at a home on Glennsdae Drive.
Deputies with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office (LPSO) say they executed search warrants Wednesday at a building in Walker in the 26500 block of Todd Drive and a building in French Settlement in the 16900 block of S. Goodtime Road.
“And in Livingston [Parish] we had about 500 plus plants and probably close to 100 pounds of processed marijuana”, Ard said.
However, authorities say the largest grow operation was discovered at a warehouse in the 2800 block of Fellsway Drive in Baton Rouge, located between Oak Villa Boulevard and Monterrey Drive.
One of the suspects hiding in a back room of the warehouse when law enforcement officers arrived at the Fellsway Drive warehouse and was arrested, according to ERBRSO.
Deputies with EBRSO say on Wednesday they seized a total of:
- $48,836 (cash)
- Approximately 920 marijuana plants
- 31.2 pounds of marijuana (approx. street value $62,000)
- 19.71 ounces of Keef (high-grade marijuana powder)
- 16.5 ounces of THC wax
- 310 ML of Psilocybin spores
- 254 grams of Psilocybin
- 26 vials of LSD (2600 dosage units)
- 5.4 grams of MDMA powder
- 9mm FN handgun
- 10mm Glock handgun
- .380 Taurus handgun
“They really put a lot of time and effort into this I mean this kind of stuff doesn’t just happen on the whim I mean you got to really put a lot of manpower and hours into it. I can’t say enough about all the men in the different agencies that were represented working together,” Gautreaux said.
Deputies with LPSO say on Wednesday they seized a total of:
- Approximately 730 marijuana plants
- 23 vials of steroids
- Approximately 65 grams of mushrooms
- Approximately 146 grams of THC wax
- 122 lbs of processed/packaged marijuana
- 1 handgun
Authorities say the drug bust was a combined operation with EBRSO, LPSO, Louisiana State Police, Drug Enforcement Agency’s Task Force, and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.
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