The Navarro County Sheriff’s Department made one of its largest drug busts in years, Saturday.
Thousands of marijuana plants were discovered beyond a tree line, valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Deputies found a lot at the site, but not the person growing them. The sheriff says he would not be surprised if the grower is linked to the Mexican drug cartel.
"They're manicuring these plants. They're taking care of it. That's how they make a living," said Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner.
Many growers cultivated their money crop in Navarro County for years. Sheriff Elmer Tanner worked with the DEA from 2010 to 2013 to crack down on grow operations in the county, seizing marijuana plants and making arrests.
The department seized 3,500 plants, some 12 feet tall, and all of it almost ready for harvest.
Someone in the county tipped off the sheriff's office. Deputies found plants freshly watered just before noon Saturday, meaning the grower had likely just left.
"We seized some cocaine, some methamphetamine here, as well, so it was more involved than just a marijuana operation,” said Sheriff Tanner.
The landowner had no idea. Tanner says its common with growth operations. Innocent, unaware property owners being taken advantage of, and he says it's happening here, in Texas, more than people think.
"There's a lot of focus on border security now, a lot of assets, a lot of taxpayers' dollars from the State of Texas are being focused on the border and border security...but we still got to take care of Central Texas right here at home"
In Sheriff Tanner’s experience, these operations are often linked to the Mexican drug cartel, but says he does not know if this operation is, "It's a growing trend now to get the growers into Central Texas, bypassing the border. Instead of bringing the product across, they bring the growers across."
Deputies also found a small campsite near the plants and say they have more specific evidence they hope will lead them to a suspect.