LAUREL, Md. (WJZ)– Half a million dollars worth of marijuana was growing inside a Laurel home, and investigators say the suspect used to work for the police.
Weijia Jiang has more on the drug operation and the man facing charges.
Manoj Unni, 30, is the alleged mastermind behind a massive marijuana growing operation. Howard County police seized 341 plants in the basement of his Laurel townhouse, part of a sophisticated irrigation system.
“He had high intensity lights, air filters, a water pumping system, an air pumping system, a ventilation system– so this is what we consider to be a sophisticated grow operation that’s been going on for some time,” Sherry Llewellyn, spokesperson for the Howard County Police Department, said.
WJZ has uncovered another part of Unni’s stunning past.
From 2003 to 2006, he worked as a technician for the Baltimore City Police Department’s Crime Lab.
A spokesperson confirms he was responsible for collecting and processing evidence from scenes. Court records show he worked more than 100 cases, including some homicides.
“He would dress in button ups and slacks. From what I could tell, he had a nice car and place. I thought he had a normal life. Obviously not,” Unni’s neighbor Mariah Belden said.
Police started the investigation after someone reported suspicious activity. But all the neighbors WJZ spoke with had no idea what was going on.
“Just blows my mind it was right there in that house and no one knew. It had to have been going on for years, for that much, and that’s just what they found. How much was sold and got out of there?” Pete Kutzera, Unni’s neighbor, said.
Police say the 170 pounds of marijuana is worth more than $500,000.
“Our investigation will continue into what was happening with those drugs after they left this residence,” Llewellyn said.
Police are investigating whether this was part of a bigger operation with more players. Unni has been released on a $25,000 bond.
Unni left the Baltimore City Police Department in 2006 for an undisclosed reason.