September 11, 2010

FARMINGTON: Marijuana stolen from police

BY DAVID ROBINSON, Staff Writer

FARMINGTON -- About 1,000 marijuana plants were stolen from a Farmington law enforcement storage facility overnight Tuesday.

Farmington police officers discovered the break-in Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., according to police Chief Jack Peck.

An overhead garage door had been "pried open" and much of the marijuana, seized Tuesday in a northern Franklin County drug raid, was gone, Peck said.

The facility is on U.S. Route 2, also known as Farmington Falls Road, east of downtown. It is a half mile from the town police station.

Two electronic garage doors are the only entrance to the building, according to Peck, and the police department has the only remotes to open the doors.

Only the town stores equipment at the facility, he said, and nothing other than the marijuana was taken.

Interviews of residents in adjoining homes, in some cases less than 20 feet away, turned up no witnesses, according to Peck. And rain overnight may have interfered with an attempt by a state police K-9 unit to track the marijuana.

State police and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency are assisting in the investigation. Officials with the MDEA did not return requests for comment.

Law enforcement officials on Tuesday night hauled the plants to the Farmington facility, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. He was unable to provide the exact time of delivery.

While town police store their evidence at the station, it is common for outside police agencies to request overnight storage at the U.S. Route 2 facility.

"To my understanding it was the plan to move the marijuana plants Wednesday," Peck said.

There are no alarms or security lighting at the building, according to Peck, and the only lighting is provided by lights along the road. He plans to discuss installing an alarm with town selectmen.

"It's not designed, nor was it, to be a evidence storage facility," Peck said.

The incident is sure to have an impact on how and where law enforcement agencies choose to keep their evidence.

"The DEA will be reviewing their polices as to where evidence is stored temporarily or permanently in the state as a result of this," said McCausland.

The marijuana plants had been seized from the properties of a father and son in Phillips, according to McCausland.

Tad Smith, 45, and Joseph Smith, 64, were both charged with felony cultivating marijuana after multiple law enforcement agencies early Tuesday morning discovered the plants on and around their properties.

Materials linked to processing marijuana, such as packaging materials and scales, were also found during the raid, according to McCausland. If convicted of the charge, they face up to 10 years in prison, according to McCausland.

Seventeen handguns were also seized from the father and son during the raid. No charges were filed related to the handguns.

Both men had been released Tuesday on $500 cash bail each.

David Robinson -- 861-9287

drobinson@centralmaine.com

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