HARTSVILLE, Tenn. – A home built above a large cave that once housed a sophisticated underground marijuana operation may have a delicious — and legal — future.
Authorities seized the home in 2005 after finding more than 850 marijuana plants under grow lights in two secured, 100-yard-long underground rooms connected to the home above.
Roth KJase USA Ltd., a Wisconsin-based maker of European-style cheeses, won a court-ordered auction of the property Saturday with a bid of $285,000.
The company's auction representative, Chuck Olson, hinted about the future of the cave after he was named the winner.
He said the plan is to "make money," and the cave's new operation will be legal "in a tasty way." Caves, with their consistent cool temperatures and humidity, have long been used to age cheeses.
Fred Strunk, the previous owner of the home, pleaded guilty last year to charges of growing marijuana, money laundering and theft.
He received concurrent sentences of 18 years for the drug charge and 12 years for the theft charge. He will have to serve more than five years before becoming eligible for parole.
"Everything was just perfect. Look at the craftsmanship," auctioneer Pete Scruggs said of the marijuana operation. "A man this smart, who could do all this, he could have made an honest living. But I guess it must have been the thrill, I don't know."