Family accused of growing pot, stealing electricity

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A massive marijuana growing operation in Hillsborough County, worth more than $1 million, landed a mother, father and son in jail on a series of charges.

Deputies busted three houses they said were rental properties used by the family for one purpose: growing marijuana. Ramon Fernandez-Fernandez, 66, Maritza Rodon, 60, and their 41-year-old son, Ariel Fernandez, were all arrested.

The homes that were used in the operation were spread between Town and Country and Carrollwood. Colby Hastings, who lives across from one of the houses involved, was floored by the alleged crimes.

"You never know who your neighbors are," he said. "I'm just concerned about my family and what's going on. You're kind of in shock that it's your neighborhood, that it's your home. Especially being a person that educates others on something like this. It definitely hits home."

Detectives said the family cultivated 539 pounds of pot, worth nearly $1.1 million. They're also accused of stealing more than $21,000 in electricity.

Investigators told FOX 13 the family kept the rental homes maintained on the outside so no one would know what was going on inside. A sheriff's spokesperson also said the family connection makes this case unique.

"It's not uncommon to see relatives working together, but we usually do see brothers or cousins. You don't often see the mother-father-son relationship between the three suspects" said Cristal Nunez, adding this is an important bust for the neighborhoods involved. "There could easily be a fire or just bringing drug activity to a neighborhood where you're just trying to raise your family."

Hastings said this case was eye-opening.

"It's right diagonal from my house, you see it everyday. They did a really good job at covering up scents and things like that," he said. "Because it's our neighborhood, you got your blinders on sometimes."

All three family members are facing several charges including Trafficking Marijuana, Cultivation of Marijuana and Grand Theft of Electricity.

This is the 37th grow operation shut down by Hillsborough deputies this year.