Friday Funny: An 'Alternative' Path To The American Dream

A local police call in Port St. Lucie Florida reporting one man chasing another with a machete led to a multi-state federal investigation of a sophisticated ring that recruited marijuana growers with the promise of free home financing.
September 29, 2006, 2pm PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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Potential home buyers were lured to one of the fastest growing cities in the United States with the promise of free financing on a home in their name, and most expenses paid for two years. The only catch was a 'live-work' arrangement -- the potential home buyer had to agree to spend the two years growing, harvesting and packaging marijuana for sale. Under the agreement, homeowners had to harvest crops two to four times a year and would receive $1,000 for each plant, while the organizers kept the rest of the profit. After two years, the homeowners could decide to continue, or could sell the house and keep 50% of the profits of the home sale.

A business in New Jersey financed the operation, but R. Alexander Acosta, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida would not name the company and declined to comment on mob ties. Thirty-five people have been charged. Four of the 27 who are in custody are being held in New Jersey. Acosta indicated that this was just the beginning.

Port St. Lucie Chief of Police John Skinner said that since police raided the first house in May, there have been 82 search warrants leading to 59 alleged grow houses. The Chief felt that police had made a dent in local operations and grow house discoveries had 'peaked', he said there could still be more. The city's enormous growth may have been a factor in why Port St. Lucie was chosen as a home base. Skinner said many of those arrested were friendly and cooperative. "They know they were wrong," he said. "They were looking for part of the American dream, but they took a shortcut."

Thanks to Sheryl Stolzenberg

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Published on Thursday, September 21, 2006 in TCPalm
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