A Belen couple have been charged with several felony drug charges after police found what they believe was about $100,000 worth of marijuana growing inside the couple’s garage.
Vince Torrez, 42, and his wife, Lynn, 40, were arrested and charged with four felonies, including distribution of marijuana, possession of marijuana (more than 8 ounces), trafficking a controlled substance and conspiracy. The couple are also charged with one misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Lynn Torrez was also arrested on an outstanding warrant for a previous fraud charge.
Belen Detective Joe Griego said he was in the office Monday afternoon when he received an anonymous call from a concerned citizen who told him someone was growing marijuana at a house at 215 Valentin Road. The caller, who wouldn’t give the detective his name, told Griego the couple were growing marijuana in the garage.
“Myself and Detective (Nephy) Valdez drove over there and in plain view, we didn’t even have to go into the yard, we drove by and we saw about six or seven marijuana plants in the back yard,” Griego said. “They were about three to four foot high.”
After securing a search warrant for the house, the detectives and several other Belen police officers gathered at the police station and were briefed on how the warrant was to be executed.
When officers arrived at the house at 8 p.m., they found Lynn Torrez alone in the house. As the officers started their search, they found several marijuana pipes and scales, Griego said.
“In the freezer, there were seven quart size bags filled with marijuana,” Griego said. “By the way it was packaged, I believe they were about to distribute it.”
Along with the marijuana found in the house, officers found two loaded shotguns, magazines on how to grow marijuana and numerous books with marijuana leaves inside the pages. Griego said he also found several Polaroid pictures of Vince Torrez posing with the marijuana plants.
“When we went into the garage, we found 41 marijuana plants,” Griego said. “They were all in a big tray where water was flowing through and an ice chest on the bottom for refrigeration. He also had it heated, with aluminum foil all around the room.”
While police were conducting their search, Torrez entered the house and was subsequently arrested, Griego said. The detective said that, when the couple’s 16-year-old son returned home, he was allowed to stay with neighbors after police determined he wasn’t involved in any wrong-doing.
“He had a pretty good set up in there,” Griego said. “The plants inside the garage varied between two and three feet high. They were getting ready to where they were able to package them and sell them.”
Valdez said the marijuana they found Tuesday wasn’t the type of marijuana they usually find in this area.
“This was the high-grade stuff,” Valdez said. “All the plants found in the garage were female plants — that’s what we call high-grade plants. This was a very elaborate set up.”
The couple were arraigned in magistrate court in Los Lunas Thursday morning, where they both pleaded not guilty. Judge John “Buddy” Sanchez ordered the two be held in jail on a $50,000 cash or assurity bond.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.