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| Crime |

Ex-SMU Frat Brothers Headed to Federal Prison for Hydroponic Marijuana Growing Scheme

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The house on Allencrest Lane -- a tidy four-bedroom, three-bath ranch-style in North Dallas -- isn't the first place one would look for a weed-growing mastermind named Bone.

Nevertheless, that's where DEA agents tracked down 37-year-old Brian Edward Deloney in June 2010, not to mention several gallon-sized bags of hydroponic weed, nearly a dozen live marijuana plants under fluorescent lights, and a Tupperware container full of cash.

Deloney was arrested and gave investigators a key to 7702 Morton Street, a modest house a stone's throw from Highland Park entirely devoted to cultivating weed. Inside, they found 92 live marijuana plants and an elaborate setup of hydroponic growing equipment.

See also: A Hydroponic Gardening Supplier Was Selling to Pot Growers, So the Feds Nailed Him on Tax Charges

"The rest of the residence was not occupied," they wrote at the time. "With the exception of a single chair, there was no other furniture inside the residence."

There were other houses, too, or there had been. Two were on the same block of Richmond Avenue near Knox/Henderson. One was on San Fernando Way in Little Forest Hills. One was in Richardson. The rest, 11 in all, were scattered in middle class neighborhoods in Far North Dallas.

The operation was too big for one man to handle by himself, and federal agents soon identified five co-conspirators. Jeremy Cash McElroy, 37; Louis Michael Olerio Jr., 36; Eric Irving Love, 35; and Jeffrey Scott Gannon, 34 had been frat brothers at SMU. (According to Olerio's LinkedIn account, they were Pi Kappa Alpha). Another man, 39-year-old Stephen Ray Willeford, was also involved.

According to the feds, the men started their operation around 2004. Much of the horticultural work was done by the frat brothers and Willeford, who ultimately delivered the highly potent weed to Deloney for distribution.

At one point, McElroy decided to distance himself from the day-to-day operation and transferred two of the grow houses to Olerio. In exchange, he got a 20-percent cut of the weed that was grown there.

Once Deloney was arrested, the conspiracy came to an abrupt halt. The six men ultimately pleaded guilty to various federal charges; Deloney received the lightest sentence, getting 18 months for maintaining a drug-involved premises. Love, Gannon, and Willeford got between 24 and 30 months for conspiring to maintain a drug-involved premises. McElroy and Olerio are both going to prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering stemming from the way they arranged the sale of McElroy's houses. Olerio got two years, McElroy three.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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