Patriarch of family convicted in pot growing scheme to be sentenced in July

Wife seeks for new trial; government files opposing motion
By Tanya Mitchell | Apr 01, 2014
Source: File image James F. Ford and Darlene Ford

Bangor — A Monroe man who was convicted late last year for his role in a marijuana-growing operation in which police seized about $800,000 worth of the drug at his residence in 2011 will be sentenced at U.S. District Court in July.

According to court documents, Justice John A. Woodcock Jr. ordered the sentencing hearing for 58-year-old James F. Ford be held July 7 at the Bangor courthouse.

In November of last year, a federal jury found James F. Ford guilty of 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 documents state the penalties for the conspiracy and manufacturing charges are prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life, and a potential $8 million fine. Maintaining a drug involved place carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years, a $500,000 fine or both, while the felon in possession of a firearm charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

In a related matter, James F. Ford’s wife, 58-year-old Darlene Ford, moved for acquittal and a new trial Feb. 18, just shy of two weeks after a federal jury found her guilty of conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place and aiding and abetting a felon in possession of a firearm. It was the second trial for Darlene Ford, as earlier in the fall, Justice Woodcock declared a mistrial when a jury was unable to arrive at a decision following nine hours of deliberation.

Court records show that in her motions, Darlene Ford stated to the court that the evidence against her was not sufficient for a properly instructed jury to find the government had proven the allegations.

In a motion opposing Darlene Ford’s request dated March 6, United States Attorney Thomas Delahanty II stated that the motions should be denied, in part, because Darlene Ford merely restates arguments she had made in prior motions that the court previously denied.

Delahanty further stated that the evidence in this case was sufficient for a jury to return guilty verdicts.

“[The] defendant made Mirandized statements to Maine Drug Enforcement Special Agent Allen Weaver. The interview was recorded,” stated Delahanty in the court record. “During the recorded interview, she acknowledged that her husband had been growing marijuana at their home for several years. She claimed that she took care of the family finances.”

In addition, Delahanty stated, Darlene Ford confirmed statements her husband made to police concerning their involvement in growing and distributing marijuana.

Bank records presented at her trial showed Darlene Ford was the “Chief Financial Officer” for the family, noting, for example, that over the course of about two years Darlene Ford had written checks totaling more than $25,000 to Central Maine Power for their residential electricity bill. Bank records further showed the Fords made approximately $500,000 in just over two years, “despite neither of them being lawfully employed.”

The court document stated that the cash deposits in the accounts in question corresponded with the marijuana “move dates” listed on calendars police discovered inside the family residence on Swan Lake Avenue.

Delahanty also recounted the testimony of a Massachusetts state trooper regarding James F. Ford’s 2002 arrest on charges stemming from a similar operation he was convicted of running in that state. The trooper testified that the Fords had conducted an operation similar to the one police uncovered in Monroe, and that they did so by using two homes the family owned, which were situated across the street from one another. Delahanty stated the trooper also testified that Darlene Ford was initially present at the properties when police executed the search warrant, but that Darlene Ford stated during her own trial that she had no knowledge of the growing operation in Massachusetts, nor did she know about the one her husband and two adult sons had conducted in Monroe. She further testified that she learned of the situation only when the search warrant was executed at the residence in Monroe, and denied knowing that her husband is a convicted felon.

As of Thursday, March 27, court records do not show whether the judge has ruled on Darlene Ford’s latest motions, nor do they indicate when she may be sentenced.

Both of the elder Fords have been in the custody of U.S. Marshals since the conclusions of their trials.

When agents with Maine Drug Enforcement raided the Ford home in late 2011, 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 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.

The Ford’s two adult sons pleaded guilty to charges they incurred as a result of the police raid. Paul Ford, 33, 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 of last year. 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.

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