Police: $4 Million Pot Operation Busted

Cicero home had been engineered specifically to create the right atmosphere to grow marijuana, police say

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Geru (left) and Newman (right) both face class X felony charges for manufacturing cannabis in addition to felony charges for possession and for criminal fortification of a residential home.

    Two Cicero men face felony charges after authorities discovered their home growing operation, valued at an estimated $4 million.

    Ryan A. Geru, 30, and Christopher G. Newman, 39, have each been charged with a class X felony for manufacturing cannabis with intent to sell and two lesser felonies for possession and for criminal fortification of a residential home, according to the Cook County Sheriff's office.

    "It looked like something out of a bad B-movie," said one Cicero police official.

    From the outside, the West 32nd Street residence looked like a regular home (apart from the heavy steel reinforcement and bolts on the outside doors), but once inside, authorities said they found nearly two dozen air conditioners running, sealed humidity and temperature controls, three-inch foam padding covering walls, secret exit doors, special lighting and a maze of growing rooms.

    With almost 40 pounds of marijuana, nearly 1,000 plants, growing inside the house, the residence had been specifically engineered to create the right atmosphere for growing cannabis plants, authorities said.

    "They re-wired the home for electricity, putting in an additional four circuit boxes, and they bypassed the electrical meter, getting power directly from outside power lines," said Cicero Police Department Superintendent Bernard Harrison.

    Police discovered the house after a routine traffic stop on June 21, where officers identified the scent of marijuana inside the 2002 red Cadillac, leading them to the property of the owner.

    Upon arrival, Geru and Newman tried to escape authorities through a secret door but failed and were arrested. Drug-sniffing dogs checked the house before police entered to find the large operation.

    Geru's bond has been set at $200,000, and Newman's is set at $250,000, according to the Cook County's Sheriff's office. A class X felony holds a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 to 30 years in prison.

    Both men are next scheduled to appear in court on July 19.