BANGOR, Maine — The second son of a Monroe couple accused of growing marijuana in their home pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to drug charges while his mother denied being a part of the operation.
Paul Ford, 32, of Swanville pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants at his parents’ Monroe home and manufacturing 50 or more marijuana plants at his Swanville residence.
A sentencing date has not been set.
His older brother James T. Ford, 35, of Monroe pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
He is scheduled to be sentenced June 3.
Both men, who were free on bail before entering guilty pleas, are being held without bail pending sentencing as required by federal law.
Shortly after she hugged and kissed her younger son goodbye in a third-floor courtroom at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building, Darlene Ford, 57, of Monroe pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place, and aiding and abetting a felon in the possession of a firearm.
She, her husband, James F. Ford, 57, of Monroe, and both sons were indicted in September by a federal grand jury. Darlene Ford was not then indicted on the conspiracy drug charge. The grand jury indicted her on that count on April 23.
Darlene Ford was scheduled to be tried on the other charges beginning Tuesday. Her trial has been continued until fall. Once her trial is completed, her husband’s trial is scheduled to begin.
James F. Ford has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The couple remains free on bail while awaiting trial.
Members of the Ford family were arrested in November 2011 when 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.
“It was top-of-the-line everything,” Jim Pease of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency said of the operation in November 2011. “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 the parents as “businesspeople,” according to a previously published report.
During the raid, police seized more than 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 2011 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.
The indictment alleged that the family had been growing marijuana in Maine since 2006 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, according to previously published reports.
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.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of the property from James F. and Darlene Ford.
James T. Ford and his brother, Paul Ford, face between five and 40 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $5 million on the most serious charge, conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants. If convicted, their mother would face the same sentence.
Due to his Massachusetts conviction, patriarch James F. Ford faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and maximum of life in prison and fine of up to $8 million on the same charge.