Broward County

Mystery shrouds Opa-locka grow house with nearly $86,000 in fines

Cory Krotenberg, the officer who led a National Geographic film crew on a tour of a marijuana grow house on York Street, is surprised no police reports were filed.
Cory Krotenberg, the officer who led a National Geographic film crew on a tour of a marijuana grow house on York Street, is surprised no police reports were filed. Drugs, Inc./Miami Vices

The three-bedroom house in Opa-locka was wired with menacing, illegal hooks-ups in the electrical lines, connected to water pumps and heat lamps.

When police and code enforcement inspectors arrived at the marijuana grow house, they found it to be a dangerous threat with enough explosive material to blow up the entire structure.

But what followed the raid three years ago would confound legal and law enforcement experts about what happened at the cramped, yellow house in the middle of the block on York Street.

Despite the raid in May 2013 that turned up dozens of plants in full bloom, no one was questioned or arrested. No reports of the raid were filed with the Opa-locka Police Department — not even a search warrant that had been obtained by investigators.

And then in June 2014 — without any public hearing — Opa-locka Assistant City Manager David Chiverton erased the penalties, $85,680 in fines and liens, saying he found nothing in code enforcement records “to support” the citations.

Former Opa-locka Deputy Police Chief Antonio Sanchez, who reviewed the search warrant and a video of its execution for the Herald, said the waiving of the fines and lack of action by police are “mind-boggling.”

“It’s so incomplete that it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s just incredible, the lack of follow-up.”

Christopher Hanson, 43, the owner of the property who was renting the home to tenants, told the Herald in a recent interview that he was not questioned by Opa-locka investigators nor was he contacted by Chiverton to discuss the fines and liens placed on the home, which Hanson sold in 2015.

“I had no idea the [tenants] were using it for a grow house,” said Hanson, who visited the home at 2552 York St. once a month to collect the rent. “All I did was reclaim my house after speaking with my lawyer. He asked me if the police contacted me, and I said no.”

To this day, the only police report in the York Street case was filed by Opa-locka Lt. Darrell Chiverton, the brother of the then-assistant city manager. It’s not about the raid, but a break-in before the raid. It said that a single pot plant was found outside, but nothing else.

What police didn’t know, however, was that the raid — captured on video — uncovered an entire grow house lab that was later featured in a National Geographic special on drugs in South Florida.

Under the title “Drugs, Inc./Miami Vices,” the video shows an entire crime scene inside the house with Opa-locka police stepping around water pumps and heat lamps while lugging out 50-gallon bags of marijuana plants.

One of the Opa-locka officers who appeared in the video, Cory Krotenberg, told the Herald in a recent interview that he was surprised his department does not have any reports on the raid. “Our detectives were there,” said Krotenberg, who escorted the film crew. “There should have been [reports].”

Chiverton, who was arrested in August in a separate investigation by federal agents probing corruption in Opa-locka, said he erased code violations on the house because there were no documents to support the liens that were imposed.

A defense attorney for Chiverton, who is set to begin his prison sentence in February, said an unnamed city commissioner approached him to deal with the code violations on the York Street property. Chiverton later was told that the landlord was unaware his tenants had been involved in the grow house operation, the former city official’s lawyer said.

“He determined that the citations in this particular case should be vacated,” said the lawyer, David Garvin. “Mr. Chiverton did not receive anything of value from anyone regarding this case.”

But an Opa-locka police search warrant detailing the grow house was on file in Miami-Dade circuit court, and 11 citations still show up in the city’s computers on the York Street property.

Sanchez, the former deputy chief, said the whole case “doesn’t smell right.”

“Not interviewing the owner?” Sanchez said. “That’s investigation 101.”

Jay Weaver: 305-376-3446, @jayhweaver

Michael Sallah: 305-376-2218, @MikeSallah7