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Thousands of marijuana plants seized

Published: September 26, 2010 12:01 AM

ZANESVILLE -- Thousands of marijuana plants seized from two locations in Muskingum and Logan counties earlier this week may be linked to a Mexican drug cartel.

The suspected ring leader, Hugo Ayala, 40, of Columbus, and 10 Mexican nationals were arrested by federal, state and local authorities who seized an estimate marijuana 2,500 plants.

The 10 Mexican nationals were arrested by authorities at a grow site along the Muskingum River near Adams Mills. They were at the site tending to the plants.

Additional marijuana plants were seized near Zanesfield in Logan County.

Ayala was reportedly arrested at his Columbus apartment.

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He is believed to have shuttled the nationals back-and-forth from Columbus to tend to the marijuana crop with an estimated street value of $5 million.

The investigation started approximately four months ago when hunters in Logan County found the grow site.

The suspects have been charged with conspiracy to cultivate marijuana. They face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Detention hearings were also scheduled for the 11 suspects on Thursday.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency are assisting the Muskingum and Logan county sheriff's offices with the investigation.

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