St. Lucie mortgage fraud-grow house operation busted

By Jana Eschbach
Posted by Rachel Leigh

PORT ST LUCIE, FL (WFLX) - Neighbors are shocked: They thought the house next door was vacant. Instead, police find it filled with pot.

Police will only say they got a tip. Now, they know exactly what to look for.

"It's a nice house - nicest house on the street," described neighbor Anjelica Cowdell.

It is not the sort of thing you expect from the empty house next door. "It scares me because it's very frequent," she continues.

Neighbors remember last year another grow house shut down just a block away. "Port St. Lucie is like the grow house capital of the world now! You would think you would get smart enough and not even do it," Melissa Cox added.

Officer Robert Vega states, "It's been two years since our first bust, and, you would think, by now, people would recognize - no matter how big or how small - we're gonna find 'em."

And police do.

A home on Southwest Brisbane Street is where police found Evelio Curbelo. Police confiscate 49 plants: Small in terms of what these undercover detectives have uncovered in the past two years."

Cox stated, "You would think, after all those, they would learn there lesson. What was it? Three times a week before they were getting busted."

Police shut them down one by one until they linked many together in one of the largest mortgage fraud - grow house operation investigations ever.

This bust marks more than 100 of these houses shut down in the city in the last two years. "It's scary because you don't know what is going on in there. Here we are across the street, and we didn't notice anything," remarked Cowdell.

Police are now experts in detection and confiscation of these grow houses. In fact, they actually had to add more space to hold all the drugs they uncover.