June 24, 2018
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Agencies share $1.1 million forfeited in Township 37 pot plantation case

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Eight Maine law enforcement agencies will share more than $1.1 million of the funds forfeited by Malcolm French and Haynes Timberland Inc. in the Township 37 pot plantation case.

The forfeiture from the firm was the third largest in Maine since 1990, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Nearly 3,000 mature marijuana plants that had been tended by undocumented workers were seized in September 2009 from the 22,000 acre property in Washington County. The agencies that received funds participated in the investigation, it was announced Thursday at the U.S. attorney’s office in Bangor.

The bulk of the money, $937,763, will go to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, the lead investigative agency, Acting U.S. Attorney Richard W. Murphy and Joel P. Garland, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division in Boston, announced Thursday at a press conference.

Police departments in Biddeford, Scarborough and Gorham each received $7,213. The Brewer Police Department’s portion was $14,427. Each department had an agent assigned to MDEA task forces at the time the plantation was raided and during the subsequent investigation, Garland said.

The rest of the money was distributed to the following agencies in the following amounts:

— Maine State Police, $57,708.

— Maine Warden Service, $43,281.

— Washington County Sheriff’s Office, $28,854.

The IRS uses a formula based on the number of man hours employees of each agency worked on the case, Garland said.

Representatives from the MDEA, state police, warden service and Washington County sheriff’s office said that their agencies had not decided how it would spend the money.

The Equitable Sharing Fund program has strict guidelines on how the money can be spent. It can be used to supplement law enforcement agency budgets but not for ongoing operating expenses such as salaries and benefits, according to Brewer Director of Public Safety Jason Moffitt. It can be used for education, training and some types of equipment not in a department’s budget.

“Last year, we used money we received for a program that taught middle and high school students about the dangers of drugs, especially heroin,” Moffitt said after the press conference.

Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton said after the press conference that his department would use its share of the money for its Operation Hope program, which helps people get treatment for addiction.

“My intention is to use this money to assist those who want treatment but don’t have insurance or can’t pay for it on their own,” Moulton said.

Murphy also recognized the Maine Forest Service and the New England State Police Intelligence Network for their work on the case. He said the agencies weren’t eligible for funds under the program’s rules.

Managers and workers set the buildings and plants ablaze at the Township 37 pot plantation when they fled as law enforcement officers raided the site, Murphy said. Members of the forest service put out the fire, kept it from spreading, and created paths through the woods that made it easier for officers to reach the grow site and dismantle it.

An analyst with the network searched for evidence by culling through tens of thousands of pages of transcribed recordings of cell phone calls the defendants made to each other, Murphy said. She created charts used in the trial that proved when supplies for plantation were delivered.

French, 55, of Enfield, Rodney Russell, 53, of South Thomaston and Kendall Chase, 60, of Bradford were found guilty on a variety of charges in connection with the pot farm on Jan. 24, 2014, after a 10-day jury trial.

In addition to convicting the men on a variety of charges, the jury found Haynes Timberland Inc., the firm that owns the land where the farm was located, guilty of maintaining a drug-involved place. Haynes Timberland retained the land in exchange for $1.55 million.

The difference of about $450,000 between the amount forfeited and the money distributed went to overhead for the asset forfeiture program, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Portland.

French and Russell are incarcerated at the federal prison facility in Devens, Massachusetts, and are due to be released in 2026 and 2025, respectively. Chase is serving his sentence at a prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He’s due to be released in November.


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