Law enforcement agents take plants out of a building Tuesday morning on Lincoln Street in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — A Lewiston man was charged with marijuana trafficking and manufacturing butane hash oil following a series of raids by state and federal law enforcement officers in Lewiston and Auburn on Tuesday morning.

Richard “Stitch” Daniels, 52, was charged in U.S. District Court in a criminal complaint that alleges a drug trafficking organization in Lewiston-Auburn grew and distributed large quantities of marijuana under the cover of Maine’s medical marijuana program, but sold marijuana to buyers who were not participants in the program and included out-of-state customers.

The enforcement action involving marijuana is the third in less than two months by U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank, whose boss, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed an Obama administration policy that said the federal government would not pursue marijuana possession cases in most circumstances.

Late last month, Frank announced that a Bangor man pleaded guilty to federal charges related to a large marijuana-growing operation in the Waldo County town of Frankfort. On Feb. 16, an Etna man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, also in Frankfort.

Early in January, Frank had responded to questions about whether his office would change its approach to enforcing federal laws against marijuana possession and use by saying that while such cases have not been a priority, he couldn’t say that would continue.

In Maine, both medical marijuana and recreational use by adults over 21 is legal, although state officials are still working out the details on how to regulate sales of recreational marijuana. Frank’s statement did not provide much clarity for medical marijuana businesses that are already operating, or for the emerging market for recreational marijuana, which has the potential to be a multimillion dollar industry in Maine.

Frank said in January that growing, distributing and possessing marijuana is illegal under federal law and “my job is to enforce federal law, not countermand it.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said more than 20 search warrants were executed in Tuesday’s raids, including at a home on Danville Corner Road in Auburn and at a warehouse at 1830 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. Agents seized over 50 kilograms of marijuana – roughly 110 pounds – six mason jars filled with butane hash oil, and a kilogram of shatter. Daniels’ garage contained a butane hash oil laboratory, authorities said.

State and federal law enforcement agents gather Tuesday morning at a house on Danville Corner Road in Auburn. Among the cars towed from the home were a Lamborghini Huracan, valued at close to $200,000, and a late-model Nissan GT-R, valued at about $175,000. Sun Journal/ Andree Kehn

At the home on Danville Corner Road, officers could be seen prepping multiple cars for towing, including a Lamborghini Huracan, valued at close to $200,000, and a late-model Nissan GT-R, valued at about $175,000.

According to city records, that property is owned by Brian Bilodeau, an accomplished amateur golfer and a regular competitor in the Maine Amateur.

Bilodeau is the principal owner of Brian Bilodeau LLC, which is listed as a company that does business in automotive re-sale and as a caregiver, according to state records.

The organization also grew marijuana as a precursor to manufacturing marijuana concentrates known as butane hash oil and shatter, a product made from butane hash oil, officials said.

Daniels was ordered held without bail Tuesday afternoon by Judge Magistrate John Rich, who set a bail and probable cause hearing for Friday morning.

Daniels, shackled and dressed in a black T-shirt and black pants, said little but indicated he may want a new lawyer.

He was represented during the hearing Tuesday by Neal Stillman, but Daniels told Rich he wants a lawyer who “specializes” in his type of case.

If convicted, Daniels faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

At the warehouse, officers were seen piling freshly pulled marijuana plants outside the building just after 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The property is owned by 1830 Lisbon Street LLC. According to city records, the principal owner of that company is Timothy Veilleux of Auburn.

Law enforcement officers pile marijuana plants Tuesday morning outside of a warehouse on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Marijuana plants also were taken from a building at 555 Lincoln St. in Lewiston and stacked on a receiving dock outside, and at a garage at 17 Bridge St., also in Lewiston, where they were piled in the driveway. The garage is accessible by a private road tucked between houses located at 13 and 19 Bridge St.

The Lincoln Street business – Ben Alpren Machine & Tool – also is owned by Veilleux. The garage on Bridge Street is owned by Comvest Inc., another company owned by Veilleux.

Veilleux was convicted of conspiracy to possess 3.95 kilograms of cocaine with the intent to distribute in 1990. He later appealed his 100-month sentence to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld the sentence, including a $15,000 fine.

In 2000, Veilleux was convicted of disorderly conduct in Androscoggin County Superior Court and fined $100. A year later, he was convicted of the same charge in Lewiston District Court.

Bilodeau has no criminal record, but he does have a series of driving convictions, including speeding in 2014 and 2017, two convictions of failure to display valid registration plate and operating a motor vehicle with a passenger who had an open container of alcohol.

A check of city records showed that in September 2016, the city issued an electrical permit to Tim Veilleux to add 1,000-amp service for a three-room medical marijuana facility at 1830 Lisbon St.

Three months later, the same address received a change-of-use permit from the city for marijuana cultivation and processing.

In May 2017, Veilleux received another city permit to add 54 240-volt outlets and 48 120-volt outlets there.

In December 2015, the city granted 17 Bridge St. a change-of-use permit for medical marijuana cultivation that listed Tim Veilleux as the property owner and Gregory Pelletier as the applicant.

In another change-of-use permit issued in June 2016, again for medical marijuana, Brian Bilodeau was listed as the caregiver applicant.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI; Maine State Police; and the Lewiston, Auburn, Windham, Biddeford and Scarborough Police departments, authorities said.

According to city of Auburn permits, 230 Merrow Road received a permit in August 2015 for a $95,000 project to create a grow room inside an existing building.Officers from the Maine State Police, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Internal Revenue Service were involved in the raids.

Eric Cousens, Auburn’s deputy director of economic and community development, said Tuesday that there has been a “substantial increase” in medical marijuana growing operations over the past few years.

Marijuana caregivers are required to gain state licenses, but that information is confidential and a full list of operations is not shared with local municipalities, which Cousens said is “frustrating” for the city.

What the city is aware of, he said, is that between 30 and 40 permits for building, electrical or plumbing have been pulled in Auburn for medical marijuana growing, but the city does not know whether they are licensed caregivers.