On a clear, warm Monday night on the Eastern Shore, more than a dozen law enforcement officers from federal and state agencies stood hidden near a brick farmhouse and watched.
As they watched near Easton, Md., they saw three men and one woman coming and going; then they saw two of the men loading bales of something into one of the trucks.
In the bales, which were confiscated, was enough marijuana to make perhaps one million reefers.
By 10:45 p.m. Monday, the agents had arrested the group and seized one ton of marijuana, wrapped up in burlap and looking, as one spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration put it, like so many "bales of hay."
Before they were finished, the law enforcement officials has confiscated an additional eight tons seized at a house on an island off the Virginia Coast.
The houses were the end of a complex logistical operation - "one of the smoothest we've ever seen," according to a U.S. Customs official. It involved an ocean-going vessel ("the mother ship," according to U.S. investigators), speedy, ocean-going racing boats, and any number of trucks, vans and campers used to distribute the product to various points in three states.
The "mother ship" would move about, always remaining between 75 and 200 miles from shore, according to James, Mahan of the U.S. Customs Service.
The two racing boats, which could go as fast as 80 miles an hour, would ride out in the dark of night to pick up the bales of marijuana, he said.
They would then transport the marijuana back to some point in Maryland - officials are not sure where - and then would be moved to the Easton-area farmhouse or another home off the Eastern Shore in Virginia, according to Mahan.
In the second raid yesterday at the house on a small island off the coast near Chincoteague, Va., officials arrested two more men and seized eight more tons of marijuana.
A DEA spokesman estimated that the total of nine tons would be worth $4 million on the wholesale market, and Mahan put the street value at $18 million.
DEA spokesman Steve Sabo called operation "one of the leading importing organizations for marijuana in the area.
"We've picked up other people distributing maybe 25 to 50 pounds of marijuana but nothing of this magnitude," Sabo said.
In the two raids and other arrests made during the early morning hours yesterday, police seized seven land vehicles, the two racing boats and arrested nine persons. The charges against two of these persons were dropped yesterday by a U.S. magistrate in Baltimore.
The seven others arrested are William Price Trolinger III, 26, of Key West, Fla.; Alfonso John Joseph, 26, of Miami; April Leslie Jacobs, 28, of Silver Spring; Michael Samuel Breiding, 24, of Winter Park, Fla.( Larry George VanDyke, 28 of 4491 McArthur Blvd. NW. No address was available for John Briscoe Lahnam, 27, and William Robert Gregg, 27.
All seven are charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, according to federal officials.