Matriarch of Monroe family charged in marijuana operation goes on trial Monday

Posted Sept. 22, 2013, at 6:23 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 23, 2013, at 12:20 p.m.
Darlene Ford
Darlene Ford
A family of four has been charged with cultivating marijuana in connection with what police reported was large growing operation in a Monroe home.
Contributed photo
A family of four has been charged with cultivating marijuana in connection with what police reported was large growing operation in a Monroe home.
James F. Ford
James F. Ford
Paul Ford
Paul Ford
James T. Ford
James T. Ford

BANGOR, Maine — The matriarch of a Monroe family accused of running a large scale marijuana operation out of their home from November 2006 to November 2011 will go on trial Monday in U.S. District Court.

Darlene Ford , 58, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place, and aiding and abetting a felon in possession of a firearm.

She was arrested Nov. 15, 2011, along with her husband, James F. Ford, 58, of Monroe, and their sons, James T. Ford, 36, of Monroe and Paul Ford, 33, of Swanville. They were indicted a year ago on drug and weapons charges by a federal grand jury.

Darlene Ford has claimed that she was not involved in the grow operation on the first floor of the Swan Lake Avenue house, according to court documents. She also has maintained she did not know her husband was a felon who was prohibited from having guns.

James F. Ford was arrested in 2002 and convicted two years later in Massachusetts for growing marijuana in the Wakefield home he shared with Darlene Ford, court documents said. The patriarch spent two years in a Bay State prison. His wife was not charged in connection with that case.

The family allegedly moved the operation to Monroe when he was released and set up the Waldo County operation. The family was suspected of harvesting about 20 pounds of marijuana every three months and shipping it to Massachusetts, according to a previously published report.

Darlene Ford was “the chief financial officer of the family business,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormick, who is prosecuting the case, said in his trial brief. She was “the only person to write checks on the four bank accounts that she and her husband had together,” the federal prosecutor wrote.

Over a two-year period, she allegedly wrote checks to Central Maine Power totalling more than $25,000 to pay the residential electricity, the brief said.

Darlene Ford and her husband, James F. Ford, remain free on $10,000 and $20,000 unsecured bail respectively. He is scheduled to be tried in November on one count each of 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’s sons have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the grow operation. James T. Ford is serving a five-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Ray Brook, N.Y. Paul Ford is being held without bail at the Somerset County Jail while awaiting sentencing. A date has not been.

Agents with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency seized more than 300 marijuana plants, in various stages of growth, 10 pounds of processed marijuana and two semiautomatic assault weapons from the Swan home in nearly two years ago. According to police, the potential street value of the marijuana found in the home was more than $800,000.

The growing operation consisted of growing lights and a hydration system to water the plants, according to a previously published report. Pease estimated the growing equipment was worth about $80,000 and said some of the plants were 6 feet tall and ready for harvest.

Darlene Ford’s trial is expected to last four days.

If convicted, Darlene Ford faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the charge of maintaining a drug-involved place, and up to 10 years each on the drug conspiracy and gun charges. Maximum fines on the convictions range from $250,000 on the gun charge to $8 million on the conspiracy charge.

If Darlene Ford and James F. Ford both are convicted, they would forfeit their Monroe property to the government.

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