Washington County pot farm worker testifies; IDs defendants in case

Posted May 15, 2013, at 1:39 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Mexican man facing deportation testified Tuesday in U.S. District Court about how the state’s largest marijuana plantation was run and identified defendants by their first name who have been charged with operating the sophisticated Washington County pot farm in Township 37.

Martin Roblero, 22, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors. He is in the country illegally and was held as a material witness in the case.

Four Maine men and a Mexican national have been charged in connection with the large scale operation. Malcolm French, 50, of Enfield, Robert Berg, 49, of Dexter, Rodney Russell, 48, of South Thomaston, Kendall Chase, 55, of Bradford and Moises Soto, 52, of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, have pleaded not guilty to drug conspiracy and other charges. Haynes Timberland Inc., a Maine corporation owned by French, also has denied charges stemming from the Sept. 22, 2009, seizure of 2,943 marijuana plants.

The Maine men are free on bail. Soto is being held without bail. All the defendants attended Tuesday’s hearing with their attorneys.

The deposition of Roblero, who has been ordered by an immigration judge to be returned to Mexico, was videotaped so his testimony can be presented to a jury this fall. Roblero, who does not speak English, testified through an interpreter.

Roblero was located through DNA samples taken at the grow site that were matched to a man incarcerated in the Midwest, according to court documents. Roblero served a two-year sentence in an Indiana prison on a sex charge. He completed his sentence in March.

Roblero testified Tuesday that he knew the men who ran the marijuana plantation only by their first names. He said that “Moises,” who speaks English and Spanish, ran the day-to-day operation along with “Scott and Rod.” Roblero also said that a man named “Malcolm” occasionally visited the grow operation.

The only “Scott” mentioned in court documents was Scott MacPherson, who took his own life in February 2011 just days before he was to have testified before a federal grand jury.

When the police raid occurred in September 2009, Roblero said that he along with other Mexican workers, and Moises, Scott and Rod ran for hours from the grow site, which only could be accessed on foot. More than 24 hours after escaping, Roblero said they were picked up by a man, whose name he did not know, in a white van.

Roblero said they were driven to a warehouse where they stayed for two days before being taken to New York and sent on their way. He said the warehouse was full of boxes that contained clothing. Roblero also testified that the unidentified man gave them sweatshirts that had the word “Maine” on them and food.

Berg’s business, Berg Sportswear Inc., located at 852 Dexter Road, and residence, located at 160 Stetson Road, in Corinna were searched in January 2011 by federal authorities. Search warrants unsealed the following August indicated federal officials were investigating the business that does custom screen printing and embroidery for allegedly using the logos of professional sports teams, distilleries and a motorcycle manufacturer without permission on T-shirts, hats, caps and other merchandise.

No charges related to the illegal use of logos have been filed against Berg or the business.

Under cross-examination by French’s attorney Walter McKee of Augusta, Roblero admitted Tuesday that he had repeatedly lied to investigators during early interviews. He also said that he had false papers to obtain work and did not give the police the correct names of his co-workers, two of whom are relatives.

If convicted, the defendants face between 10 years and life in prison and a $10 million fine on the drug conspiracy and manufacturing marijuana charges.

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