Trial begins for mom of family charged in Monroe pot growing schemeAssistant U.S. Attorney: Darlene Ford was 'chief financial officer' of operation
Bangor — The matriarch of the Monroe family accused of maintaining a marijuana growing and distribution operation out of their Swan Lake Avenue home in November 2011 will go on trial this week.
The trial of 58-year-old Darlene Ford is taking place at U.S. District Court in Bangor. Court records indicate her trial began Monday, Sept. 23.
Darlene Ford pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place, and aiding and abetting a felon in possession of a firearm after agents with Maine Drug Enforcement raided her family's Swan Lake Avenue home.
Police seized about $800,000 worth of marijuana and an additional $80,000 in growing equipment, such as lights and a hydration system.
According to previously published reports, drug agents found the growing operation in the garage section of the home, and seized more than 300 marijuana plants in various stages of growth. The raid also resulted in the discovery of 10 pounds of processed marijuana and two semi-automatic assault weapons.
Darlene Ford and her husband, 58-year-old James F. Ford, were suspected of harvesting about 20 pounds of marijuana every three months and shipping it to Massachusetts, MDEA stated at the time of the arrests.
James F. Ford pleaded not guilty to 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. Court records show the elder Ford is scheduled to go on trial in early November.
According to previously published reports, 33-year-old Paul Ford of Swanville pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants at his parents' Monroe property and manufacturing 50 or more plants at his home in Swanville. Paul Ford entered his guilty plea in May.
His 36-year-old brother, James T. Ford, of Monroe, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition in December 2012.
Both Darlene and James F. Ford have remained free on bail while awaiting trial.
The Fords were arraigned after a federal grand jury indicted the family in September 2012. At that time, the elder James Ford and his two sons were indicted for conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants and for manufacturing 100 marijuana plants or more — "manufacturing" is the federal term for cultivation. The parents were indicted for making their Swan Lake Avenue residence available for manufacturing and storing the drug. Court records also state that James F. and James T. Ford were each indicted for possessing firearms as convicted felons, and the grand jury also indicted Darlene Ford for aiding and abetting her husband's possession of firearms.
Included in the indictment was a directive that James F. and Darlene Ford forfeit their Monroe home and property to the federal government.
In a brief prepared for the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormack described Darlene Ford as "the chief financial officer" of the family business, noting she was the lone person on the family who wrote checks out of the four accounts she and her husband maintained. For example, McCormack stated, bank records show Darlene Ford wrote checks totaling $25,000 to Central Maine Power to cover the cost of their residential electricity bill over the course of two months.
Darlene Ford's attorney, Donald Brown, stated in his brief he would argue his client had no knowledge of her husband's 2004 conviction in Massachusetts for cultivating marijuana there and therefore she did not know he was a felon and could not possess firearms. Brown also suggested statements made to police by the girlfriend of her son, James T. Ford, should not be admissible in her trial because he expects the government to present the girlfriend as a co-conspirator witness.
"... The defendant was not a co-conspirator with James T. Ford therefore; the court should rule that the statements offered by the government through [the girlfriend] are inadmissible," stated Brown.