Check on exotic animals brings pot-growing arrest
By Mike Bowdoin
A check by a wildlife officer on some exotic animals owned by a Chiefland area man resulted in his arrest on Sunday for growing marijuana as well as violations of wildlife regulations for the exotic, dangerous animals he had on his property.
According to the Levy County Sheriff’s Office, Ken Holmes of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was at the residence at 6351 N.W. County Road 336 doing some inspections on exotic animals that were being kept there, when he noticed a very bright light inside the residence. He thought it might be for reptiles in cages, but got a surprise when he looked through the window.
“In looking in there, he gazed into the room and saw marijuana plants growing,” LCSO spokesman Capt. Chuck Bastak said.
Holmes then backed away and called Levy County authorities, and members of the county’s Drug Task Force joined the investigation, helping to acquire a search warrant from Judge Joseph Smith that was served at 4:50 p.m. on Nov. 26.
When they got there, officers saw lights on in the house but no one came to the door when they knocked and identified themselves, so they entered . Once inside, they saw an indoor hydroponic growing operation that turned out to contain 102 marijuana plants varying from three to 12 inches in length.
They also encountered a serval cat – a spotted cat similar in size to a cheetah but with a head that resembles a domestic cat – that was walking around unsecured in the house.
Performing a search of the property, the officers also found a cougar, a leopard, three crocodiles, an alligator, a Bard owl, a great horned owl, a skunk, a hedgehog, exotic birds and a number of water monitor lizards.
“There was also a quote-unquote gopher tortoise habitat with an undetermined amount of gopher tortoises,” Bastak said.
The officers arrested John P. Jones, 33, on charges of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony. Jones is also charged with possession of wildlife in an unlicensed facility, improperly caring for wildlife, and unlawful possession of gopher tortoises, according to reports. Besides seizing the plants, officers also seized hydroponic growing equipment, several computers, one 9 mm handgun, and two .357 revolvers.
Bastak said Jones said he would take responsibility for everything in the house, but the officers also filed a sworn complaint against Jennifer W. Jones, 25, in the case as well. Bastak said FWC was looking for homes for some of the exotic animals.
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