An Algonquin man is accused of growing more than $1.4 million worth of cannabis in Pratt's Wayne Woods Forest Preserve near Wayne, authorities said Friday.
Marcelino Villa-Rodriguez, of the 200 block of Blackhawk Trail in Algonquin, is charged with unlawful production of cannabis, possession of cannabis with an intent to deliver, and criminal damage to property, authorities said.
A DuPage County Forest Preserve police officer was on foot patrol Sept. 14 looking for illegal deer stands when he said he discovered hundreds of cannabis plants in Pratt's Wayne Woods.
Officials said the plants appeared to be an organized cultivation site -- the largest ever found on DuPage forest preserve property -- consisting of three plots growing in proximity within a wooded area of the preserve.
On Thursday, the officer and his supervisor arrested Villa-Rodriguez after the man walked away from the cultivation site and had pruned several cannabis plants in one of the plots, police said.
Villa-Rodriguez initially denied being involved, but confessed when police confronted him with evidence of his tending the plants, authorities said.
Two district police officers, who are state-certified evidence technicians, processed the crime scene and counted a total of 316 cannabis plants. Due to the organized nature of the site, forest preserve police contacted the DuPage County Metropolitan Enforcement Group for assistance. The agency assisted with interviews, the search of the scene and evidence processing.
While processing the scene, which included an adjacent area of nondistrict property, officers said they found roughly 7.5 pounds of cannabis material stored in two separate containers in a storage structure.
The harvested drugs found nearby were worth roughly $45,000, officials said, in addition to the $1.4 million street value of the cannabis plants found at Pratt's Wayne Woods.
Forest preserve officials said their investigation is ongoing and all plants have been removed.