BANGOR, Maine — Three of four members of a Waldo County family police said ran a sophisticated marijuana-growing operation in their Monroe garage pleaded not guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to drug charges.
Four members of the Ford family were indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury.
Paul Ford, 32, of Swanville; his brother, James T. Ford, 35, of Monroe; and their mother, Darlene Ford, 57, of Monroe denied being involved in the operation in brief court appearances.
Darlene Ford was released on $5,000 unsecured bail and James T. Ford was released on personal recognizance bail.
Bail for Paul Ford was set at $5,000 unsecured but he is being held at the Penobscot County Jail on a warrant out of Massachusetts. It was unclear late Wednesday afternoon what charges are pending against him in the Bay State.
James F. Ford, 57, of Monroe, his wife and two sons were arrested in November and charged in Waldo County Superior Court after agents with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency raided the family’s Swan Lake Avenue garage where they allegedly grew hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana.
The three men were indicted for conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants and manufacturing 100 marijuana plants or more. The parents were indicted for maintaining a drug-involved place. In addition to being indicted on the drug charges, James F. Ford and James T. Ford were indicted on one count each of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Darlene Ford was indicted for aiding and abetting her husband in possessing a firearm and ammunition.
The indictment also calls for the parents to forfeit the property where the growing operation was located.
James F. Ford is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
“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,” Jim Pease of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency said of the operation in November.
He described the parents as “businesspeople,” according to a previously published report.
During the raid, police seized over 300 marijuana plants, in various stages of growth, 10 pounds of processed marijuana and two semiautomatic assault weapons. According to Pease, the potential street value of the marijuana found in the home was more than $800,000. He said in November that the parents were suspected of harvesting about 20 pounds of marijuana every three months and shipping it to Massachusetts.
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.
If convicted on the conspiracy and manufacturing charges, James F. Ford and his son, James T. Ford, face a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in federal prison due to their previous drug convictions and a fine of up to $8 million. Each man faces up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the gun charge.
Paul Ford faces a minimum of five years and up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million on his drug charges. Darlene Ford and her husband face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 on the charge of maintaining a drug-involved place. She also faces up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the gun charge.
If convicted, the state charges most likely would be dismissed.