Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:02 pm | Updated: 1:24 pm, Thu May 31, 2012.
Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force investigators seized about $38,000 worth of psychedelic mushrooms that were intended for Tennessee distribution, said Tommy Loving, task force director. The street value is an approximate figure that may be revised as the investigation continues.
“We think they were heading to Bonnaroo with these items,” Tennessee 19th Judicial District Drug Task Force Director Jesse Reynolds said in a release. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival scheduled for June 7-10 is a popular annual event on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn. It draws about 80,000 people from all over the country who camp out on the farm for the four-day music festival.
The search warrant executed at 317 Cedar Ridge Road at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday – just three blocks from W.R. McNeill Elementary School and Western Kentucky University’s main campus – netted more finished psychedelic mushrooms than Loving said he has
seen in the 15 years the drug task force has been operating and his experience prior to that with the Kentucky State Police.
In a related search, Tennessee drug investigators with the 19th Judicial Drug Task Force executed a search warrant on a home in Clarksville, Tenn., where they recovered mushrooms individually packaged for resale. Agents found 109 packages of mushrooms in a hollowed out spare tire, more mushrooms in a hallway and 900 to 1,000 Bonnaroo theme T-shirts with a mushroom design on them inside the home, Reynolds said during a telephone interview this morning.
The Clarksville bust was one of the largest mushroom busts in the past eight years there. The last big seizure of mushrooms there was also Bonnaroo bound, according to the Tennessee task force release.
The Bowling Green Police Department assisted the task force here. The Cedar Ridge Road house is rental property, investigators said.
Bowling Green task force Detective Matt Travis estimated the street value of the mushrooms could be between $80 and $240 an ounce. The mastermind behind the Bowling Green operation boasted that he could produce 10 pounds of finished psychedelic mushrooms in 40 days, task force Detective John Williams said.
The grower produced the mushrooms from spores, using heat and water to germinate his crop. Many of the containers were near windows in the house to benefit from sunlight during the growing process, Williams said.
Task force members carted away many tubs of small Mason jars and several trays filled with the finished product piling lids and jars on the Cedar Ridge Road lawn.
Investigators with the task force in Tennessee arrested Robert D. Robinson, 38, of 317 Cedar Ridge Road, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Loving said. Robinson is charged with trafficking in psychedelic mushrooms in Tennessee.
Jeremy Bennett, 32, of Clarksville, was also arrested and charged with trafficking in psychedelic mushrooms, Reynolds said. Reynolds expects to seek additional charges against both men, he said.
Those arrests in Tennessee led the local drug task force to research information and then execute the search warrant here at the cream-colored, ranch-style home.
Investigators will consult with Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron to determine criminal charges in Warren County, Loving said.
Drug task force personnel wore Tyvek hazardous material suits as they took items out of the house Wednesday evening.
“The mold alone can cause respiratory problems,” Loving said.
Robinson’s arrest in Tennessee could shut down what Loving called “a major player” in the distribution of the psychedelic mushrooms. “This is an ongoing investigation,” he said.
The indoor mushroom growing operation is the third that the task force has uncovered here this year, and it is by far the largest one, Loving said.
“Three in a year is a troubling trend,” Loving said.