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OCALA — The Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team dismantled a marijuana grow operation in Ocala and arrested a man and woman on Friday.

A Department of Children and Families employee went to 5301 SE 35th Court to follow up on an investigation involving the couple’s children on Friday. At the home, the DCF official knocked, but got no response.

The social worker saw what appeared to be marijuana plants and called Marion County Sheriff’s deputies.

Deputies arrived at the residence, located off Southeast 52nd Street, and saw the marijuana plants. The deputies notified UDEST, which has local, state and federal officials who conduct drug investigations.

Agents got a search warrant for the mobile home. Drug officials said they found 70 marijuana plants growing in the backyard. The plants, which were in pots and growing in a garden, ranged from small to roughly 5 feet tall, authorities said.

Entering the home, agents found three guns, THC oil and wax, two Mason jars that contained marijuana in a freezer, loose marijuana and bags that were labeled.

Brad Hutchins and his wife, Rebecca Marie Hutchins, who live at the residence with their children, were not home initially when agents arrived, but eventually came home.

Drug officials interviewed the couple and Brad Hutchins told them that all the items found at the residence belong to him. His wife told agents she had knowledge about the marijuana plants.

After the interviews, the couple was arrested and taken to the Marion County Jail. Brad Hutchins, 38, faces nearly a dozen charges including cultivation of marijuana and possession of a firearm by a felon. His 35-year-old wife faces several charges that include cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana.

Rebecca Hutchins was a nurse with Ocala Community Care, who until last month, was contracted to provide health care for Marion County Jail inmates. Heart of Florida Health Centers assumed the role once filled by OCA in April and employees absorbed by the new entity are under a 90 day-evaluation.

Hutchins was in the 90-day probation period and was fired, Heart of Florida Health Centers officials said.

Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118, austin.miller@starbanner.com or @almillerosb.

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