PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Officials with the Martin County Sheriff's Office and the Port St. Lucie Police Department said an illegal marijuana grow house and gun manufacturing "shop" in a Port St. Lucie warehouse was the most sophisticated level of operation they have ever found in the city.
"This was probably one of the most professional grows I've ever seen," said Lt. Scott Beck, with the Port St. Lucie Police Department.
"I have been in many busts where there was guns and drugs, but never where he had the presses and all the machinery it takes to assemble weapons together," said Lt. John Budensiek, with the Martin County Sheriff's Office.
Officials said it began when a Martin County sheriff's deputy stopped Antoine Sparks of Port St. Lucie for an alleged traffic violation on Tuesday. "(Sparks)" was an excellent record keeper," said Budensiek. "He was meticulous, he brought receipts for soil, grow lights, tubing, everything-- and he had them in folders in his car." Investigators also reportedly found marijuana and more than $3,000 cash in Sparks's car.
Port St. Lucie police said Sparks' traffic stop led them to his home on Nackman Terrace. His house allegedly contained a pound of marijuana, $7,000 cash, seven firearms and ammunition. He and his wife, Marti Renee Sparks, were both arrested on charges of possession of marijuana.
Police served a secondary search warrant on five storage units Antoine Sparks rented on Settle Avenue. According to Beck, they found a three-room marijuana grow house with 150 plants, and two pounds of loose marijuana. They also reportedly found firearms, including loaded SKS guns and AK-47 assault rifles, a Sig handgun with the serial number removed, and other modified guns.
"We found manufacturing blueprints that (Sparks was) machining firearms parts," said Sgt. Charlie Lumpkin with the Port St. Lucie Police Special Investigations Division. "They were machining parts to assemble AK-47s. We had armor builders, DVDs that showed them how to assemble and build a firearm, and ledgers indicating the sale of the firearms. He did not have a license to sell. This was an illegitimate gun-manufacturing facility."
Neighbors who live in the block where the Sparks couple lived, said they were shocked to learn about the alleged guns and drugs so close by.
"It's frightening, especially with things going on in the world," said Rosetta Beck. "I've met those people, and they were quiet. She spoke more than he did."
"I'm very surprised, actually, for it to be in my neighborhood," said Anthony Guido, who lives one street over. "I've heard a lot about (marijuana in) Port St. Lucie, but to have it in your own neighborhood, it's kind of shocking."
Beck said there were 150 plants seized from three of the five storage units in the warehouse. He said the plants were on the second floor of the facility. "The grow appeared to be staged to be harvested on a monthly basis. It looked like it would be a regular income generator," said Beck.
"There were forty-two plants that looked ready to harvest, and 108 other plants were in various stages of growth," Beck continued. "There was cleaned marijuana, ready to sell."
Beck described the warehouse as almost professional in its layout. "You had a lower section built out, as if somebody constructed a home out of lower section of warehouse," he said. "Wood floorings, a big-screen TV, and gun-smithing were on the bottom floor. The second floor was only accessible through a bay, which led up to the second floor where the growing operations were."
"Open bays were kept empty as a method of venting, to exhaust the grow-house, so the smells (of the marijuana) wouldn't escape," Beck said.
Since Antoine Sparks was arrested in Martin County, he remained in the Martin County jail on Wednesday. Marti Renee Sparks was arrested in Port St. Lucie, and was in jail in St. Lucie County. Port St. Lucie Police say they expect to add to their charges by the end of the week, after the state attorney's office reviews the case.
"This is the result of what happens when law enforcement partners across jurisdictional boundaries," said Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc.
"This was good police work at both ends," echoed Martin County Sheriff William Snyder. "We don't want these guns in the hands of people distributing narcotics. Guns, drugs and money in these hands, that's a combustible situation."