The stench of marijuana was so strong, detectives could smell it from the street, and it's where this pot-growing operation was found, that makes this bust so stunning.
The home is on West Lake Avenue, right in the shadow of Raymond James Stadium and just a few feet away from a public park.
Neighbors were surprised and then a little freaked out that a pot-growing operation this big and this sophisticated was right next door.
"The stench in there was pretty overwhelming," said Corporal Eric DeFelice with the District 1 ROC Squad of the Tampa Police Department. "In a matter of 30 seconds you'd start to get a headache." ROC stands for Rapid Offender Control.
It took a small army of TPD officers, covered in hazmat suits and gas masks, to box-up the 21 adult pot plants. And most of the day to dismantle what they said, was a well-designed indoor pot farm.
"Very high-intensity lights, they're on the ceilings, every wall in there was covered with a foil, that reflected that light. Every plant had its own bin, several different types of fertilizer, as well as irrigation inside," said DeFelice. "Everything was set-up on a timer and it had a very high-tech ballast for the lights."
There were 15 to 20 lights hanging inside, with 1,000-watt bulbs blazing inside.
"That room had a high-end, self-cooled air conditioning, so that room was actually the coolest spot in there," said DeFelice.
TPD arrested 47-year-old Rafael Becerra on a litany of drug charges. He was just renting the house and living here with his 13-year-old daughter. He made his first appearance in court Friday.
Police said he jumped the meter and was stealing electricity from TECO, about $120 a day for the last year or more. They found-out by sheer luck.
"As we were driving by in our car with the windows rolled down, we smelled the strong odor of fresh marijuana," said DeFelice. "We knocked on the door and when he opened the door, the smell wafted out and just kind of punched you in the face."
DeFelice called the operation impressive.
"Top that I've ever seen," he said. "This is very, very sophisticated. For a grow house, this was A-plus."
"It's really scary!," said Teresa Vergara, who lives just a few houses down. "It is scary!"
"We've never seen anything like that, ever!," said her husband Hector Vergara. "Just surprised everybody in the neighborhood!"
The Vergara's have lived on that block nearly 50 years and just could not believe what they saw coming out of the house.
"I was looking from my house, because I think the drapes are always drawn and I don't think I've ever seen them opened, but when I saw the light and I saw this huge tree, I thought, what in the world is going on?," said Vergara.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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