Russell County Sheriff: Atlanta man in possession of 282 marijuana plants

spedersen@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 2, 2013 

The Russell County Sheriff's Office recently arrested an Atlanta man Monday in Phenix City with 282 marijuana plants.

Rickey Baker, 58, was charged with trafficking marijuana and obstruction of justice.

Baker, who Sheriff Heath Taylor said is unemployed, was living at 19 Minger Circle, which is off Highway 169. Although Monday's seizure does not outnumber the total amount of plants seized by the Sheriff's Office, it is the largest amount seized at one time, Taylor said.

"In my memory this is one of the largest we've found," Taylor said. "On one property for one person this is a very substantial amount of marijuana."

Taylor said Baker has a history of trafficking marijuana. That charge came from Georgia, the sheriff said. He was unable to give details about that prior arrest during the press conference.

"This isn't his first time at the rodeo. He knew what he was doing," Taylor said. "It appears to us, he was here in our county to grow and distribute marijuana."

The 282 plants weighed nearly 140 pounds and have a street value of $564,000, Taylor said. He allegedly had been growing the plants for months.

In his home, Baker allegedly had a grow system with weight tables and lights with young plants scattered throughout. Taylor said Baker would keep younger plants under hot lights indoors until they were old enough to weather outdoor conditions.

There was no evidence that anyone else was living with Baker.

Investigators found the marijuana fields after the Alabama Aviation Unit found one plant, termed "house dope," near Baker's house during a routine flyover. Taylor said the Alabama Aviation Unit performs a flyover through every county in Alabama during the grow season.

About an hour after the marijuana plant was seen, the Alabama Marijuana Eradication Unit and the Russell County Drug Unit executed a search and took Baker into custody.

Taylor said Baker had complete identification records for his second identity, Joseph Alfonso Cowell. Baker gave investigators this identity when they arrived to take him into custody. They were later able to determine his real identity.

Baker was later charged with obstruction for giving a false identity.

If convicted, Taylor said Baker could face ten years or more of incarceration.

Though Taylor said investigators have so far been unable to determine other individuals who might have aided Baker in distributing the marijuana, he said the seizure of such a large quantity was a large step toward decreasing drug trafficking in the county.

"This was an extremely beneficial arrest," Taylor said. "I hope we have put an end to that industry — for him, anyways."

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