SORRENTO, Maine — A woman has admitted in federal court to destroying a house that police seized from her mother in a 2004 drug sting.
Cecelia Nicole Sanborn, 26, pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Bangor to a charge of causing more than $1,000 in damage to federal property. The seized house was destroyed by fire on June 8, 2006, two days after her mother was found guilty in federal court of aggravated drug trafficking and several months after elec-tric power to the house had been turned off.
Sanborn is the daughter of Roxana Sanborn, 59, also known as Roxana Carter, who was accused along with Craig Folsom, 55, of cultivating 450 marijuana plants in the house, which was on West Shore Road near Route 1. The elder Sanborn and Folsom were living in the house at the time. During a March 10, 2004, search of the property, police also seized 10 pounds of processed marijuana, two rifles, $16,000 in cash and other drugs.
Folsom later was sentenced in federal court to serve 27 months in prison on the drug trafficking charges. The elder Sanborn was sentenced in federal court to serve 16 months behind bars. As part of the mother’s sentence, she agreed to forfeit ownership of the house to the federal government.
Hancock County Sheriff William Clark said Saturday that the younger Sanborn was never charged with arson because there was too much damage from the fire for investigators to find the forensic evidence needed to warrant such a charge. But he did say that police were confident in the evidence they do have, which puts San-born at the scene of the crime when the house caught fire and which indicates there is no other way the house could have caught fire.
Clark declined to comment further about the evidence against Sanborn.
“We have enough evidence to prove she was at the scene at the right time and that nothing else would have started it,” the sheriff said.
Clark said Sanborn faces 24 to 42 months in prison for the conviction and a restitution order for the value of the home before it burned. Sanborn’s sentencing is expected to be held this spring, he said.
According to documents filed in federal court, the value of the house when it burned was about $135,000. The county’s anti-drug law enforcement task force ended up getting $92,554, or nearly 75 percent, of the proceeds from the eventual sale of the property.
In federal court documents, prosecutors indicate that Sanborn initially told police that she did not know how the fire might have started and that she had been at a friend’s house in Hancock the night the home burned down. But prosecutors also indicated in court documents that Sanborn told others that she started the fire inside the house with lighter fluid. Sanborn, according to investigators, was angry that police had seized her mother’s home and did not want them to have it.
According to prosecutors, after the home burned down Sanborn wrote in a message on her MySpace page that “I was raised in that house, and you want to hear the ironic part. A few days after my mother went to jail that house burned down. God works in mysterious ways. I will say one thing [to] whoever did it I’d like to shake their hand. Now I’m glad it burned down, at least those greedy DEA agents don’t get it.”
According to Clark, the reason the original marijuana cultivation operation was prosecuted in federal court is that Maine law does not allow police to seize properties that are used for marijuana trafficking, but federal law does.
Police have indicated they were interested in seizing the property because of the scope of the marijuana operation and because they would be able to use proceeds from the sale of the house to fund operations of the county’s drug task force, which helps to save taxpayers money.