MARINETTE COUNTY, WI (WTAQ) - Federal, state and local authorities say they've uncovered a large marijuana grow in parts of Marinette County, which has ties to Green Bay.
Authorities say the marijuana operation consisted of two sites, each with more than 1,000 marijuana plants. One of the sites is on nearly 40 acres of land on County Highway X in the Town of Middle Inlet. The other is on 22 acres of land on South Hill Road in the Town of Athelstane.
Five people were arrested in connection with the drug operation and authorities say they're still looking for two Hispanic males. On Tuesday, all five appeared in federal court in Green Bay.
Marco and Javier Magana made initial appearances Tuesday morning. Manuel Mendoza, Maria Magana-Mendoza and Brian Magana were in court Tuesday afternoon. All could face a maximum life in prison and up to $10 million in fines.
Court documents show the properties were owned by three family members who live in Green Bay at homes on Doty Street and Deckner Avenue.
Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve is calling this the biggest bust he has seen.
“We are now eradicating many, many large marijuana plants. I can tell you it is in the thousands, the preliminary count already,” he said.
The sheriff says an investigation has been building since May. Surveillance started after fishermen and loggers tipped off authorities to suspicious activity on the property.
As for the two men still on the loose, “We do not believe them to be armed and dangerous. They just got away on foot.”
Investigators say marijuana finds like this are a growing problem throughout the state.
“We've seen a number of marijuana grows on public lands, as you are aware in this area. There is a lot of marijuana grows that are eradicated on private property as well. But this is a significant operation, large-scale operation,” David Spakowicz, Department of Justice, told FOX 11.
As the investigation continues, the sheriff says samples of the marijuana plants will be sent to the crime lab to be tested. The rest will be destroyed.
The sheriff says about 60 officers are involved in the investigation, covering six different agencies. That includes federal drug officers, the DNR and the Brown County Sheriff's Department.