EL PASO, Texas — A local man, who is suspected of illegally growing marijuana plants in his parents' house, remains in federal custody after special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested him Thursday.
Pablo R. Benitez, 21, was arrested May 23 after HSI special agents, assigned to the El Paso Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), executed a federal search warrant at a home in the 5000 block of Crossroads Drive. According to an arrest affidavit, a search of the house revealed marijuana being hydroponically grown. This process includes growing plants in an inert, sterile growing medium, such as water, instead of soil.
Agents found potted marijuana plants, plant food and chemicals, and materials commonly used for packaging illegal drugs. The weight of the seized marijuana was more than two pounds. U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Office of Border Patrol (OBP) assisted with executing the search warrant.
HSI special agents also searched a nearby apartment in the 300 block of McClintock Drive where they encountered Benitez and a young girl. The El Paso County Sheriff's Department canine unit assisted HSI in searching this apartment where agents found a small amount of marijuana.
According to an arrest affidavit, Benitez told special agents he was growing the marijuana at his parents' house beginning about two weeks ago.
Court records also show that Benitez said he traveled to Los Angeles to learn how to hydroponically grow marijuana. He obtained the seeds from his own marijuana, and also read a book on the subject. He denied selling the marijuana. He said a friend of his sold it, and that the hydroponic marijuana was part of an experiment and for his personal use.
Benitez's preliminary and detention hearing is set for May 30 in federal court.