09/11/2013 11:21 EDT | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 EST

Ontario Marijuana: Flying Fan-Man May Pirate Harvests, Police Warn

OTTAWA - Marijuana growers in Eastern Ontario are keeping their eyes peeled this month for a legendary figure who roams the skies every harvest season: the Fan-man.

"The Fan-man is a guy that goes searching in cornfields for marijuana plants," says a rural property owner, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution from members of the drug trade.

With a paraglider powered by a fan-like propeller strapped to his back, the Fan-man soars above area cornfields, using a GPS to pin-point places where illegal marijuana grows, he says.

"What he'd do is literally fly real low, looking for these plants. He's been seen around the area by a lot of people — and there's most likely more than one."

The Fan-man is believed to sell GPS co-ordinates of illegal weed to criminals, who then camouflage and arm themselves at night to steal the plants. They're known in criminal circles as "pot pirates."

A spokesman for the Ottawa police service says the drug section is not aware of the Fan-man.

Uninhabited rural stretches of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec are well-known for illegal pot farming.

The Fan-man apparently hunts for green "holes" in between rows of corn where growers hide illegal marijuana.

The rural property owner first learned about the Fan-man when he spotted a suspicious person soaring low with a powered paraglider over his cornfield.

After that encounter, friends told him about the flying pot-spotter.

"When you see him, everybody goes around telling their stories about the Fan-man, and about how they know somebody who's had an encounter with him or knows somebody who probably could be the Fan-man."

There are unconfirmed reports of airborne shootouts with shady pot farmers brandishing shotguns.

John Sanzo, 62, took up the sport of powered paragliding to experience the freedom of flight, soaring above rural Eastern Ontario.

Sanzo said he's upset about criminals using powered paragliding for crime.

"It's a hell of a way to ruin the sport," he said in an interview.

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