Dominic Nolan Puleo
ROGERSVILLE -- Three Hawkins County residents have been charged in connection with a large indoor marijuana grow that was discovered by firefighters during a house fire Thursday.
Shortly before noon Thursday the Striggersville Volunteer Fire Department responded to the report of a structure fire in the Pressmen's Home area of Hawkins County.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said that as firefighters attempted to extinguish the fire they found themselves standing in the middle of an elaborate clandestine marijuana grow lab.
Dominic Nolan Puleo, 33, 110 Elbow City Road, was charged with manufacturing marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, maintaining a dwelling for drug use, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Michael John Bantis, Sr., 48, and Patricia Lindsay, 57, both also of 110 Elbow City Road, were charged with criminal responsibility for the manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a dwelling for drug use.
"During the preliminary investigation, it was determined that two of the three bedrooms in the home had been converted into grow rooms for the marijuana," Lawson said. "It appeared the fire started in one of the two grow rooms, but the exact cause is still undetermined."
Lawson added, "It was determined that prior to the fire the home contained in excess of 50 marijuana plants. The HCSO Narcotics Unit was able to salvage 15 marijuana plants as evidence."
Deputies also allegedly recovered and seized approximately 15 pounds of harvested marijuana, an extensive amount of equipment/supplies used in the manufacture of marijuana including grow lights, ventilation systems, water filtration systems, buckets and potting soil.
The street value for the marijuana is estimated at $48,000, police said. It was also estimated the home contained approximately $20,000 worth of equipment used in the manufacturing process. Also seized from the residence was a 2001 Acura and $5,400 in cash.
All three suspects were arrested and transported to the Hawkins County Jail. As of Friday night all three suspects were being held on a $75,000 appearance bond pending arraignment Monday.
Lawson commended the Striggersville Volunteer Fire Department for quickly recognizing the crime scene and preserving as much evidence as possible.