An anonymous tip from a citizen and months of police surveillance have led to the discovery of a large marijuana growing operation in three northwest Omaha homes.
Among the clues for investigators: One of the people in the operation hadn't held a job for almost a decade, and two of the homes had unusually high electric bills — a common occurrence for growing operations.
During a search of the homes, police confiscated $146,202 in cash, 420 marijuana plants and 58.3 pounds of harvested marijuana.
Officers also seized six assault rifles with ammunition, a 2012 Corvette ZR1, three late model Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a Cadillac SUV and a 2007 Chevrolet 2500 HD pickup truck. Also confiscated were eight 100-ounce bars of silver, five 10-ounce bars of silver, one 5-ounce bar of silver and five 1-ounce silver ingots.
“This appears to be a fairly sophisticated large-scale operation,” said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. He declined to elaborate, saying prosecutors will have more information later in court.
The homes were under surveillance from at least February to the end of October, when a married couple were arrested.
Capt. Rich Gonzalez, who oversees the department's narcotics and gang units, said the case underscores the importance of tips from the community.
The case, "is a good example of how everyday citizens can share information about suspicious activites," which can lead to arrests, he said. "Sometimes those small things lead to bigger things."
Larry K. Christiansen, 32, and Michelle C. Christiansen, 43, of Omaha have each been charged with delivery or intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of firearms in conjunction with a drug violation and failure to obtain a drug stamp. If convicted, both face up to 75 years in prison.
Kleine said Larry Christiansen was being held on $750,000 bail. Michelle Christiansen was released from jail after posting 10 percent of $25,000 bail; she successfully got her bail reduced from $750,000 to the smaller amount.
Attorneys for the couple declined to comment.
According to search warrants filed in Douglas County Court, the Christiansens own two homes in northwest Omaha where they were growing marijuana — 16221 Young St. and 7361 N. 122nd Avenue Circle. The combined value of the homes is $504,000.
The search warrant indicated that surveillance was conducted on those homes and on the Christiansens' townhouse apartment at 15705 Larimore Plaza.
Larry Christiansen told police he also had $13,000 in proceeds from the marijuana operation in a bank account, according to court documents. That account has been frozen by a judge.
Police learned that Larry Christiansen hadn't held a job since 2004 and that the two residences where marijuana was growing had electric bills three to five times higher than neighboring properties.
Officers also searched the trash outside the houses in late February and found marijuana seeds and stems as well as a number of objects associated with drug manufacturing, such as numerous cans of air freshener and dust-mold masks.
On Oct. 18, an investigator conducting surveillance on the Young Street residence noticed a box fan propped in a rear window drawing the odor of fresh marijuana out of the house.
Search warrants were obtained, and the Christiansens were arrested Oct. 31.
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