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DEA Stakeouts Spark Up Big Business For Garden Center

The owner of Midwest Hydroganics in Crest Hill, Illinois said he has seen a flood of customers since Patch posted stories about the DEA repeatedly following his customers.

Midwest Hydroganics owner Joseph Vota said business has been booming since Patch revealed the DEA was staking out his store. Credit: Joseph Hosey
Midwest Hydroganics owner Joseph Vota said business has been booming since Patch revealed the DEA was staking out his store. Credit: Joseph Hosey
By Joseph Hosey

Crest Hill, Illinois – The owner of an indoor garden center feared he would be driven out of business after DEA stakeouts of his store were exposed in stories posted by Patch.

It turns out he could not have been more wrong.

"It's been nothing but support," said Joe Vota, the proprietor ofMidwest Hydroganics on Renwick Road.

"The say, 'We're not leaving you,'" Vota said of calls from customers. "The community's not letting this store close."

Vota's store was thrust into the national spotlight after Patch revealed the DEA and Shorewood police raided a 46-year-old woman's home in the early morning and charged her with misdemeanor marijuana possession. The month-long investigation of the woman, Angela Kirking, began after a member of a DEA task force staking out Midwest Hydroganics spotted her shopping there.

Kirking said she bought nothing more from Midwest Hydroganics than a small package of organic fertilizer for an edible hibiscus plant.

Patch then learned of a second DEA investigation prompted by a stakeout of Midwest Hydroganics. That case ended with a Channahon man pleading guilty to a felony marijuana charge.

Owen Putman, the Chicago spokesman for the DEA, declined to comment on the cases stemming from surveillance at Midwest Hydroganics but Charles B. Pelkie, the spokesman for the Will County State's Attorney's Office, said there have been a total of 11 investigations in the last 18 months.

Eight of those cases were prosecuted in Will County. One led to the seizure of 120 pot plants, 29,150 grams of marijuana and 178 ecstasy pills, Pelkie said, and ended with a Plainfield man getting sentenced to four years in prison. Another case, he said, involved the seizure of 71 pot plants, 8,333 grams of marijuana, three pistols, a revolver and a rifle.

Nine grams of cannabis were allegedly found in Kirking's Shorewood home after she was held at gunpoint by flak-jacketed agents and police. That was the smallest amount allegedly found in the 11 cases, Pelkie said.

"We charge the cases that the DEA brings to our office and we charge them appropriately," he said. "When they bring us felony cases we charge felony cases. When they bring us misdemeanor cases we charge misdemeanor cases."

Vota questioned why the DEA was spending its time and resources at his store instead of staking out street corners in Chicago for heroin dealers. He also wondered what the difference was between selling products that might be used to grow marijuana and selling spray paint, which could be inhaled as an intoxicant or used by vandals.

"Does the DEA or this (agent) stake out Home Depot to make sure you're buying spray paint to paint a chair?" he said.

And Vota believes the general public shares that sentiment, based on his boost in business and the encouraging calls he received. Last weekend, he said, 35 orders were placed through his website. He averages less than five in a month. And a local organization recently stopped by to support him—and to buy his merchandise.

"A women's gardening club came in on Saturday because they read about Ms. Kirking," he said. "They bought 47 bags of soil for their gardening club. They'd never been here before."

Business has been so strong that Vota hired two employees to help him fill Internet orders. One started Monday and the other is scheduled to begin later in the week.

"I'm putting people to work," Vota said, "not taking them away from their families."
Tom Hollman April 17, 2014 at 10:12 PM
KNEE JERK aids is Gods way of culling the herd of undesirables I used to donate all the time till I found out they were trying to prevent it.
Aileen Dodge April 17, 2014 at 11:44 PM
Tom you are obviously an internet TROLL! And Genius I never said she would be a GOOD Leader!!! I simply stated she might have put a stop to or slowed what has happened to this country. Given the fact that she certainly was well aware of all the players in Washington DC. But this of course of my own opinion and I am a realist and understand that there are those that believe there is NOTHING WRONG with the state of this nation. Of course I might also believe those individuals are living in Egypt on Denial!!! (Hint: Read it fast it makes a funny kind of sense!) But again that would be MY belief. Shhhh Please don't tell anyone in the Government though that might disagree!!! Lest they send 5 fully armed Swat teams to my little spot in the world all of those Swat members being fully armed with the latest in Anti Terrorist weaponry to storm my little home that doesn't have any kind of a weapon unless you consider my 1.5 year old clownish French Bull dog some kind of evil canine??? LMFAO And after they kick in all my doors and windows all they will find is an old kitchen scale that measures food weight and calories!!!! OMG and you know it's the likes of individuals such as myself, middle-aged women that are most certainly the biggest threat to this Country!!!! But take away all the sarcasm and right here you will find a person who will die to protect my civil rights and those of my fellow American. Because I am one of those American's that when I see the someone's civil rights being violated by the Government, or Federal Law enforcement, or even local law enforcement officers. I will stand up and speak up for that person. And I will not shut up and just go away and mind my own business. Because I do believe and Know that to do NOTHING means I am freely agreeing to give up my own rights. And that is never going to happen!!! So YA I am a very proud 54 year old troublemaking military vet that is also a staunch supporter of the US Constitution and will commit civil disobedience making sure it is not blatantly violated in my presence. And there never is a bad day for a REVOLUTION!!!
Grumpy Old Man April 18, 2014 at 07:44 AM
So far the only complaint I've heard is about how terrible Reagan is. I really hate to tell you but the so called War on Drugs, whether titled that or not, has been going on for a long time before Reagan or Nixon ever came into office. And the jackass party hasn't been behind in enforcing it either. Oh, Eric WithHolder claims he doesn't want to prosecute marijuana offenses - what the hell is the DEA doing here? And maybe you can tell me who has produced the drugs which, along with education about safe practices, has defeated or brought the AIDS problem under control? No, it's not the labor unions of America, Timothy Leary, or little old Madame Curie in her kitchen lab.
Grumpy Old Man April 18, 2014 at 08:54 AM
To clarify before someone jumps - the major drug control legislation did come about in 1970 as a reaction to the widespread (both real and perceived) use and abuse of recreational drugs. But opiates were banned from importation, sale and manufacture in 1924 (other than that for medical purposes - morphine is an opiate and a pain reliever which if not administered correctly can and does result in dependency. Oh, and Allison, give your French Bull Dog a big hug and kiss from his cousin my English Bull Dog who loves Bulldogs of any stripe, color, or national origin.
knee jerk April 18, 2014 at 10:40 AM
@ Tom Hollman: I do you realize how STUPID you sound? I'm sure your God has a plan for you-good luck.

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