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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Truly Smoky Story

By Associated Press
Mon Dec 19, 4:59 PM

- Investigators described a marijuana-growing operation discovered inside a cave in Trousdale County as something out of a James Bond movie.

'It's pretty amazing what they had under there _ water for irrigation, special lighting, devices to keep the humidity just right. These guys were professionals. They knew what they were doing,' said District Attorney General Tommy Thompson of Hartsville.

The cave was beneath a stylish A-frame home where authorities say three men were able to grow as much as 100 pounds of marijuana every eight weeks.

'They could grow in 60 days what it would take four and a half months to grow outside,' Thompson said. 'It's just unbelievable what they've done. It's like something out of a James Bond movie.'
Arrested on Wednesday were Brian Gibson and Greg Compton, while a third man, Fred Strunk, was arrested near Gainesville, Fla.

All three are in jail, with Gibson and Compton being held in the Trousdale County Jail. Bail was set for Gibson and Compton at $5 million, while Strunk's was set at $15 million, Thompson said. Local authorities were in Florida on Saturday to return Strunk to Tennessee.

The investigation began about five years ago when a home was built above the cave, but it never appeared anyone lived there, Thompson said.

'The front of the cave used to be a hole that you'd crawl into, and it opened up into a pretty big room that was 20-feet high. They cut the side of the hill so you could just drive right into the cave,' he said.

The cave, reached from the house via secret entrances, is said to be about two miles long, but the mamarijuana operation was located about 100 yards inside. Thompson said the other end of the cave had been blocked to keep trespassers out.

According to the prosecutor, the men told locals they were going to be mining statuary rock.

To harvest the illegal crop, Thompson said the men would hire a half-dozen Hispanic workers in Arizona and drive them to Tennessee. For part of the journey the windows on the van would be covered so the workers did not know where they were.

"They would drive right into the cave and let them out to begin working," Thompson said.

Thompson also said that it was "pure dumb luck" that the operation was finally discovered following a massive fire inside a portion of the cave. Police reports show that upon arriving home, two of the men noticed a small leak of smoke from the garage door opening and proceeded inside, unleashing a massive plume of smoke that could be seen for miles.

"They flat out opened the door and sent a fog through town," said Thompson. "and as if that ain't bad enough -- we do have elderly folks and children -- now you can't find a moon pie or twinkie in stores for miles."

Seeing both opportunity and good will around the holiday season, Hostess bakeries of the Greater Tennessee Valley has arranged for an airlift commencing later today."


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