Thursday, April 17, 2014
Staff photo by Andy Molloy HIGH TIMES: A Kennebec County Sheriff's Department drug agent unloads two marijuana plants in Augusta Wednesday from a seizure of 730 plants following a raid in Albion. The plants have an estimated street value of $250,000, according to Sheriff Randall Liberty. Police are still seeking the resident of the home where the plants were cultivated, according to investigating Deputy John Bourque.
ALBION — Police on Wednesday uncovered a massive marijuana-growing operation inside a residence and other buildings, involving 730 plants and ''the most sophisticated growing operation that I have seen in 27 years,'' Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty said.
Authorities estimate that the marijuana they seized has a value of about $250,000.
The residence at 42 Clark Road belongs to Elaine P. Rogers, 53, who was not around when officers from multiple agencies executed a search warrant at 11:30 a.m. Police have issued a warrant for Rogers' arrest; she faces a Class C felony charge of cultivating marijuana, Liberty said.
During the raid, police arrested Kenneth Lachance, 54, of Winslow, who arrived at the residence in possession of three OxyContin pills worth $80 to $100 each. Lachance later was released after posting bail at the Kennebec County Sheriff's Office, Liberty said.
Ten officers participated in the search from the Fairfield, Oakland and Waterville police departments and the Kennebec County Sheriff's Office, he said.
Inside, officers discovered a marijuana-growing operation that accounted for ''more than 80 percent of the living space,'' Liberty said.
The plants, up to 6 feet tall, were stored in eight growing rooms; Liberty said; also seized were 3 pounds of processed marijuana valued at $7,500.
In addition, the rooms were equipped with growing lights, timers, fertilizer and ventilation systems. The property also contained two additional buildings that were full of growing marijuana plants.
The sophisticated operation, which consisted of ''both traditional and hydroponic systems,'' was powered by a large commercial generator -- used mainly at construction sites -- running continuously inside of a shed, Liberty said.
The shed was insulated to reduce noise and the generator ''produced all of the electricity to run all of the grow lights, ventilation systems and fans in the home,'' Liberty said, putting the drug operation ''off the grid and off our radar.''
''This is the most sophisticated growing operation that I have seen in 27 years,'' Liberty said. ''The electrical wiring, the timers, air-conditioning units and processing systems were very advanced.''
Police estimated that each marijuana plant would produce 2 to 3 ounces each, meaning the total drug stash would be 91 to 136 pounds of marijuana.
''We were there for four hours,'' Liberty said. ''We loaded four pickup trucks and a U-Haul box truck about 24 feet long.''
Liberty credited Detective Kingston Paul of the Fairfield Police Department and Detective John Bourque with doing ''an outstanding job with this investigation,'' which he said was a team effort.
Liberty said he expected to arrest Rogers soon in connection with the operation, as well as an additional suspect.
Wednesday's drug bust came following another large raid in Albion last month.
On Aug. 16, Richard Rytky, 46, of 43 Benton Road was charged with trafficking drugs, a Class C felony, after police executed a search warrant on his residence and seized 9 grams of raw heroin worth about $6,800; $15,000 in cash; 14 grams of marijuana, and digital scales, hypodermic needles and material for packaging drugs.
''The drug problem in Albion is not unique to the town,'' Liberty said. ''All communities share the opiate and other drug problems.''