York County sheriff’s deputies and federal drug agents have arrested a Lyman man suspected of growing almost 1,000 marijuana plants in two locations, including a warehouse in Waterboro.

Maj. William King of the sheriff’s office said the warehouse was set up for “continuous cultivation,” with plants in various stages of growth in rooms throughout the building. On the walls were written reminders of when to water the plants and turn on grow lights, he said.

Robert Ryder, 51, was arrested Wednesday after deputies and agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided his home, where they say they found 184 plants and five pounds of processed marijuana in the garage.

Deputies said evidence in Ryder’s house led them to get a search warrant for the warehouse on May Street in Waterboro. There, they said, they found another 800 plants and five pounds of processed marijuana.

The sheriff’s office said the total street value of the marijuana was more than $400,000.

Ryder was charged with marijuana cultivation and was held in the York County Jail on $25,000 cash bail. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance today.

King declined to provide details of the investigation or how authorities focused on Ryder, but said “he’s been sort of on our radar for the last couple of months.”

King speculated that Ryder and another man, who was charged last week with running an unrelated pot-growing operation in Waterboro, may have chosen the small town because it’s lightly populated and has no local police force.

“Many times, people will go into these small towns where there’s no police department … and people feel they can get away with that,” he said.

Roy McKinney, head of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, which was not involved in the investigation of Ryder or his arrest, said the size of the marijuana-growing operation means the seizure will “really disrupt the marketplace. This really disrupts the supply chain all the way down.”

McKinney said the size of the operation suggests that Ryder supplied pounds of marijuana to middle men, who broke the pot into smaller packets for sale to customers. In Maine, pot sells for $2,000 to $3,000 a pound, depending on the quality, he said.

“It’s a significant underground economy,” he said.

McKinney said marijuana-growing operations in Maine “run the gamut” from a few plants to operations like the one Ryder allegedly ran.

York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette said Ryder’s arrest was the second in a week involving a significant marijuana-growing operation in Waterboro. On March 14, deputies arrested John Pond of Waterboro and charged him with marijuana cultivation.

The sheriff’s office said Pond was growing about 80 plants and had two pounds of processed marijuana. Pond was released after posting $1,000 cash bond last week.

Also Thursday, Saco police said they and investigators from the MDEA arrested Vito Lavopa, 47, of Cumberland and charged him with growing marijuana in an apartment on Portland Road.

Saco police said they received information about possible drug dealing at the apartment in the past few days. When they went there, police said, officers noted a strong scent of marijuana and Lavopa allowed them to search the apartment.

Police said they found 28 plants, with a street value of about $14,000.

Lavopa is scheduled to make a court appearance on May 22.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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