April 5, 2011 —
Sullivan County’s largest pot-growing bust began late last Tuesday, and has expanded to reveal operations at seven locations in the towns of Highland, Lumberland and Mamakating.
According to Sullivan County undersheriff Eric Chaboty, the operation may be part of a larger organized crime effort, with leads being pursued on additional locations and individuals.
The high-quality marijuana plants were being raised utilizing sophisticated growing practices. Approximately 7,000 plants were confiscated, with an estimated street value of up to $20 million.
Officials began investigating some of the locations in response to unusual amounts of electric consumption at several sites. Other growing units were being operated off the electric grid utilizing independent generators. Many of the homes are surrounded by privacy fencing.
The buildings are located at 317 Tuthill Road, 271 Herring Road, and 535 Decker Road in the Town of Lumberland; 75 Barker Road in the Town of Highland; and 1183 Pine Kill Road, 800 South Road and 30 Brooktrail Road in the Town of Mamakating.
Fifteen suspects described by law enforcement officials as immigrants from South and Central America have been arrested in association with the operations. The federal complaint describes one of the suspects as bearing “marijuana leaf crumbs” on his shirt. Another attempted to hide behind curtains in one home. The defendants face between 10 years and life in federal prison.
Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff thanked the Lumberland and Highland constabularies for their contributions to the investigation. Other law enforcement agencies involved in the action include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, New York State Police, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and the New York City Organized Crime Strike Force.