Operation "Hydro Hustlers" breaks up Cuban drug ring

- A Cuban drug trafficking organization known as the "Hydro Hustlers" was busted after a year-long investigation by the Hernando and Hillsborough County sheriff's offices. A total of 22 arrests have been made for a total of 80 felony charges and eight misdemeanor charges. 

Several grow houses in Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Polk, and Suwannee counties were identified during the investigation, named Operation Hydro Hustlers by the Hernando and Hillsborough County sheriff's offices. The name comes from a method of no-soil growing used in the production of marijuana plants.

Between March 8 and 9, 2016, Hillsborough County deputies busted eight grow houses. On Friday, April 22, Hernando County detectives searched a home in its jurisdiction and arrested three Cuban citizens, found to be connected to the Hillsborough County grow houses.

“There were around 50 marijuana plants found inside a residence. About 85 pounds of marijuana that had already been cultivated,” said Michael Terry, spokesman for the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Between the two counties, 641 plants, more than 46 pounds of packaged marijuana and $126,061 has been seized.

Hernando County detectives said they also found grow equipment, and power diversion at the home they searched. The Withlacoochee River Electric were called to the home and disconnected wires used for the power diversion.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said five people were still wanted in connection to Operation Hydro Hustlers.

Those still wanted on racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges are:

- Raul Delgado Romero, 27
- Jorge Rivero Perez, 33
- Angel Espineira Vazquez, 48
- Julio Viamonte Pino, 40
- Elcides Porcegue, 48

Terry said the Hernando bust is still under investigation and it’s unclear if there are more grow houses operating in the county.

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