Retrial of Monroe woman accused in marijuana family conspiracy begins in federal court

Posted Feb. 04, 2014, at 1:38 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 04, 2014, at 7:26 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The retrial of a Waldo County woman on drug and gun charges began Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

The first trial of Darlene Ford, 58, of Monroe in the same courtroom ended in a mistrial in September when the jury could not reach a verdict.

Ford remains free on bail.

She is accused of being part of a family conspiracy from 2006 to 2011 in the operation of a large-scale, indoor marijuana farm while helping her husband, a convicted felon, illegally possess assault-style weapons.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormack said in his opening statement that Darlene Ford was the financial officer in the family marijuana business. She paid the bills and handled the banking in five different accounts, he told the jury of seven men and seven women including two alternates.

Don Brown, the Brewer attorney representing Darlene Ford, told jurors that his client had no idea her husband was growing marijuana behind a locked door in the garage area of their home, or that her sons were helping him. She wrote checks for the bills he told her to pay, and she had no idea that her husband had been convicted of a felony in Massachusetts, Brown said.

Darlene Ford’s husband, James F. Ford, 58, of Monroe, was convicted by a federal jury in November of 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.

He is being held without bail while awaiting sentencing. A sentencing date has not been set.

In separate deliberation after announcing the guilty verdict, jurors found that he must forfeit his home where the marijuana was found growing to the government if his wife also is convicted.

The couple’s adult sons, James T. Ford, 36, of Monroe and Paul Ford, 33, of Swanville, have pleaded guilty to drug charges in connection with the operation.

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.

During the raid, police seized more than 300 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, 10 pounds of processed marijuana and two semi-automatic assault weapons. According to police, the potential street value of the marijuana found in the home was more than $800,000. Jim Pease of the MDEA said in November 2011 that the parents were suspected of harvesting about 20 pounds of marijuana every three months and shipping it to Massachusetts.

Due to his Massachusetts conviction, James F. Ford faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and maximum of life in prison and a fine of up to $8 million on the conspiracy charge. His wife faces between five and 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million if convicted.

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 set.