June 25, 2018
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Police: Monroe family ran ‘sophisticated’ pot operation from custom-built garage

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

MONROE, Maine — Police say that a Monroe family arrested Tuesday night for growing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana in their Swan Lake Avenue garage had one of the most sophisticated operations yet seen in Maine.

“It was top-of-the-line everything,” Jim Pease of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency said Wednesday. “It was a very high-tech, very sophisticated, very neat grow … It was very clean, very organized, much like you would think of a computer lab. A real still environment. That’s what this was.”

He described parents James F. Ford and his wife, Darlene Ford, both 55, and their two sons, James T. Ford, 34, of Dixmont and Paul Ford, 31, of Swanville, as “businesspeople.”

All were charged with cultivation of marijuana after a raid by members of the Maine State Police tactical team and Maine Drug Enforcement Agency that began at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and lasted until the last of the marijuana was packed up five hours later.

“We were busy last night,” Pease said.

During the raid, police seized over 300 marijuana plants, in various stages of growth, 10 pounds of processed marijuana and two semi-automatic assault weapons. According to Pease, the potential street value of the marijuana found in the home was more than $800,000. He said the parents were suspected of harvesting about 20 pounds of marijuana every three months and shipping it to Massachusetts.

“They appear to be fairly smart individuals,” he said, adding that he had heard the two sons had college degrees in different types of engineering. “It’s purely for the money. They weren’t addicts, doing it to support a habit.”

It’s reportedly not the first time the family had opted to cultivate marijuana. James T. Ford was convicted in 2002 for growing marijuana inside his home in Weymouth, Mass., and spent two years in prison for the crime, Pease said.

Agents believe the family has been growing marijuana in Maine for four or five years, he said, and built the Swan Lake Avenue home in 2005 in order to do that. The garage had nothing in it except a workbench, where guns were built, and grow rooms, he said.

The growing operation consisted of a hydration system to water the plants and growing lights, according to a press release from the Maine State Police. Pease estimated the growing equipment was valued at $80,000 and said some of the plants were 6 feet tall and ready for harvest.

The parents lived above the garage in an apartment.

All family members arrested were at the residence when agents arrived Tuesday night, he said. The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Maine State Police had been investigating the family for about a month before deciding to make a move. The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office also assisted with the investigation.

The Fords were cooperative with officials.

“They didn’t give us a hard time,” Pease said.

A Waldo County Jail official said three of the family members have been released, with bail set at $2,500 cash for James F. Ford, $500 unsecured for Paul Ford and $500 unsecured for Darlene Ford. Bail for James T. Ford was set at $250 cash, but no one had posted that yet, the official said, and he was sent to Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset on Wednesday.

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