UPDATE: Police arrest 2, seize 87 pot plants as fraud probe uncovers marijuana surprise

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Luis Alba, left, was charged on a warrant with first-degree cultivation of marijuana, first-degree distribution of marijuana, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana.  Miluska Jimenez-Espinoza was charged with third-degree credit card fraud. Luis Alba, left, was charged on a warrant with first-degree cultivation of marijuana, first-degree distribution of marijuana, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana. Miluska Jimenez-Espinoza was charged with third-degree credit card fraud. HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – Authorities seized 87 marijuana plants and took two people into custody Friday, March 7 after the Egg Harbor Township Police Department executed a search warrant in the Mizpah section of Hamilton Township for a credit card fraud investigation.

Egg Harbor Township detectives investigating the use of counterfeit credit cards at various businesses throughout Atlantic County identified Luis Alba of Hamilton Township as a suspect.

On Friday, detectives from the Egg Harbor Township Police Department, Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, Hamilton Township Police Department, and SWAT Officers from the Egg Harbor Township Police Department, executed a search warrant at Alba's residence, where he was arrested without incident. 

His girlfriend, Miluska Jimenez-Espinoza, was also arrested for her involvement in the credit card fraud operation.  During the search of the residence, a large in-door marijuana growing operation was discovered in the basement of the home.

A 3-year-old child was removed from the home and placed with a family member.  The welfare of the child and his care is being referred to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency for further inquiry. 

A total of 87 marijuana plants were recovered which would yield a street value of marijuana of approximately $175,000 and equate to approximately 87 pounds once harvested.

The New Jersey State Police Marijuana Eradication Squad responded to assist with the dismantling of the growing system and with the recovery of the marijuana plants and equipment. 

Police say they also discovered that the electricity supplying the area had been tampered with and required an immediate response from the revenue protection unit of Atlantic City Electric.  It was estimated that more than $7,000 of electric service was stolen from the utility in order to facilitate the marijuana growing inside the home.

In addition, approximately $15,000 worth of stolen merchandise was seized from the home, along with two vehicles allegedly used in the commission of the crimes. The merchandise is believed to be proceeds from the fraudulent credit card operation.

Several hundred gallons of diesel fuel were seized having an estimated value of $2,000.  Police said the fuel was purchased with the counterfeit credit cards.  Credit card manufacturing equipment was found inside the home and recovered as evidence.

Also, two canines, a German sheppard and a Chihuahua, were also removed from the home by Tri-County Animal Control Services.

Alba and Jimenez-Espinoza were transported to the Egg Harbor Township Police Department for booking. 

Alba was charged on a warrant with first-degree cultivation of marijuana, first-degree distribution of marijuana, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana.  Bail was set by Municipal Court Judge H. Robert Switzer at $100,000 cash.  He was additionally charged with several counts of credit card fraud.  He was lodged in the Gerard L. Gormley Justice Facility in Mays Landing.

Jimenez-Espinoza was charged with third-degree credit card fraud and she was released on a summons.

The investigation into fraudulent use of counterfeit credit cards was initiated in January by Detectives Tricia DiMarco and Kyle Warren of the Egg Harbor Township Police Department.

Anyone having additional information is asked to contact Detective DiMarco or Detective Warren by calling the Egg Harbor Township Criminal Investigation Bureau at 609-926-4051.

Tipsters can remain anonymous by providing information through Atlantic County Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-658-8477 and receive a cash reward in the event the tip or information leads to the arrest of this subject. 

Charlie Pritchard / Investigators comb through evidence on the scene at a home in the Mizpah section of Hamilton Township where a marijuana growing operation was discovered. Charlie Pritchard / Investigators comb through evidence on the scene at a home in the Mizpah section of Hamilton Township where a marijuana growing operation was discovered.           


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