Man who recruited workers for Township 37 pot farm gets 4 years in prison

Some of the marijuana plants authorities seized in Washington County.
Courtesy of Maine Drug Enforcement Agency
Some of the marijuana plants authorities seized in Washington County.
Posted Aug. 19, 2014, at 12:32 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 19, 2014, at 4:10 p.m.
Rodney Russell leaves federal court in Bangor on Jan. 13, 2014.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Rodney Russell leaves federal court in Bangor on Jan. 13, 2014.
Kendall Chase leaves federal court in Bangor on Jan. 13, 2014.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kendall Chase leaves federal court in Bangor on Jan. 13, 2014.
Malcolm French and his wife, Barbara, leave federal court in Bangor on Jan. 14, 2014.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Malcolm French and his wife, Barbara, leave federal court in Bangor on Jan. 14, 2014.
Robert Berg of Dexter leaves U.S. District Court in Bangor on Jan. 7, 2014, after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact to manufacturing 1,000 or more marijuana plants at a large marijuana farm in Township 37 in Washington County in 2009
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Robert Berg of Dexter leaves U.S. District Court in Bangor on Jan. 7, 2014, after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact to manufacturing 1,000 or more marijuana plants at a large marijuana farm in Township 37 in Washington County in 2009

BANGOR, Maine — The man who testified that he recruited migrant workers to plant, tend and harvest marijuana at a Township 37 pot plantation in Washington County was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to four years in prison.

Moises Soto, 53, of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, who took the oath of U.S. citizenship nearly seven years ago in the same courtroom in which he was sentenced, identified Malcolm French as the person who asked him to find workers for the plantation to jurors on Jan. 17.

A week later, French 52, of Enfield, Rodney Russell, 50, of South Thomaston and Kendall Chase, 57, of Bradford were found guilty of a variety of charges in connection with the marijuana plantation. They are being held without bail while awaiting sentencing. Their sentencing dates have not been set.

Soto pleaded guilty in July to a drug conspiracy charge and one count of harboring illegal aliens. He has been held without bail since his arrest in March 2013. Soto told jurors that by testifying he hoped to receive a lesser sentence. The sentence imposed Tuesday was a year shorter than it would have been if he had not testified, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He faced up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million. Under his plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Soto waived his right to appeal his sentence to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as long as his sentence was not longer than four years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, who prosecuted the case, recommend Soto be incarcerated for four years. Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras urged the judge to impose a sentence between 31 and 38 months.

The time he has been incarcerated is expected to be applied to his sentence.

In addition to prison time, Soto was sentenced to three years of supervised release.

Just prior to being sentenced, an emotional Soto apologized for his crimes.

“I want to apologize to the state of Maine for committing these crimes here,” he told Woodcock. “I promise you will not have to see me here again. I’ve learned my lesson and ask for leniency.”

Although Soto was described in court documents as an “overseer” at the Township 37 marijuana farm, Soto testified that his role was more limited. He said that he found workers in 2007, 2008 and 2009 but did not live at the site as they did.

Soto said that he translated instructions at the beginning of the growing seasons and at harvest time. Soto also said that he sometimes paid the Mexican workers in cash that he received from Scott MacPherson. MacPherson, along with Russell, ran the day-to-day operation on the farm.

MacPherson, of Wesley, was the only person taken into custody the day the plantation was raided by authorities, according to testimony. He took his own life not far from the marijuana farm in February 2011, just days before he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury.

Soto testified in January that he met French socially through a family member in the early 2000s. Soto also said that he had worked once in the mid-2000s doing logging work for French. The Mexican native said he mostly worked the blueberry harvest as a manager.

Soto was in Mexico tending to an injured stepson when he received calls from MacPherson and a Mexican worker on Sept. 22, 2009, about the raid on the marijuana farm.

“I flew back two days later,” he said. “Scott [MacPherson] said they were hiding at a warehouse.”

He testified that he and a man he knew only as “El Negro,” who had helped find workers for the pot farm, went to a warehouse in Corinna, owned by Robert “Bobby” Berg, and picked up the workers. He said that “El Negro” took them to New York and dropped them off and he went back to Mexico.

Berg, 51, of Corinna pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to manufacturing 1,000 or more marijuana plants at the marijuana farm in Township 37. He remains free on bail. His sentencing date has not been set.

By pleading guilty, Berg, who until recently owned a Corinna business that does custom screen printing and embroidery, admitted that he knew about the pot plantation and that police had raided it on Sept. 22, 2009, forcing workers to flee. The next day, a longtime friend asked Berg to pick up the undocumented workers in the woods in Washington County, according to the prosecution version of events to which he pleaded guilty.

“[Berg] took the workers to his residence and hid them in his barn,” the document said. “He provided them with food and clothing as well. A day or two after picking up the workers and giving them refuge in his barn, another offender came to the defendant’s barn and picked up the workers.”

In June, Berg waived indictment and pleaded guilty on behalf of the business to a charge of creating fake logos for sports teams, a distillery, a tractor company and a motorcycle manufacturer.

Robert Berg Enterprises Inc., doing business as Berg Sportswear Inc., owned by Robert and Hedda Berg, both of Corinna, had been under investigation for trafficking in counterfeit goods, money laundering and tax evasion for more than three years, according to court documents.

Robert Berg, president of the corporation, entered the plea on its behalf. He recently transferred all shares in the firm to his wife, according to his attorney, Richard Berne of Portland. She authorized Robert Berg to enter the plea June 23 on behalf of the corporation.

Berg does not face prison time on the charge, but the corporation will be required to pay a fine. On behalf of the corporation, Berg agreed not to appeal the case to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston if the fine is $20,000 or less.

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