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DEA targets RI homes that were ‘gutted’ to grow marijuana

Target 12

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Several homes including a pair of historic properties were raided by federal agents after they were extensively modified to illegally grow marijuana, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

A complaint filed this month to seize a 125-year-old home on Woodville Alton Road in Hopkinton alleges at least seven homes in seven different communities were connected to what was called a “drug trafficking organization (DTO).”

The suspects allegedly bought the properties with cash and used “straw” owners to conceal “the true participants from the illegal activity,” the document stated.

The Hopkinton home was raided last fall while the other six were searched in 2017.

Federal agents moved in on five locations on June 29, 2017, according to the recent complaint. During their investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) executed warrants on 11 suspected illegal grows, seizing more than 450 plants, about 375 pounds of processed pot, $180,000 worth of growing equipment, nine vehicles and $100,000 in cash.

Li Quong Zeng, who’s allegedly involved in grows in Cranston and Coventry, is now a fugitive from justice, according to investigators.

As Target 12 reported earlier this year, the Cranston home on Scituate Avenue was built in 1770 and is on the National Register as the Nathan Westcott House.

According to the Cranston Historical Society, the home is in an area that was an important stop for soldiers who traveled the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route during the Revolutionary War.

The small, Cape Cod-style home was gutted from the first floor to the rafters, the windows were boarded up and extra outlets and faucets were installed on the insulation-covered walls..

Target 12: Exclusive look inside 1770s home gutted for pot grow »

Investigators said the cultivation equipment in the Cranston home was either being set up or removed at the time of the raid.

Several of the properties have been seized by the government including the historic Westcott House, which has since been sold.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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