14 people, 9 businesses indicted for alleged marijuana trafficking operation
LEWISTON (WGME) -- More than a dozen people were indicted on Friday in connection to a marijuana trafficking operation, months after a massive drug raid in the Lewiston-Auburn area.
Court records allege the group, disguised as medical caregivers, was illegally growing and selling marijuana.
A federal grand jury handed down up the 41-count indictment on Friday, charging 14 individuals and several of their businesses. It said the alleged operation had been going on since 2015.
Back in February, federal authorities executed search warrants at 20 properties across Androscoggin County, discovering a butane hash oil laboratory and seizing hundreds of pounds of marijuana, along with guns and two sports cars, including a Lamborghini.
"Federal drug cases with this many defendants present a lot of challenges," said Defense Attorney Verne Paradie.
Paradie represents Timothy Veilleux, who owns some of raided properties and is now facing charges.
"Mr. Veilleux maintains he was just the landlord," said Paradie. "He rented out these properties. He knew what they were doing, but he believed them to be legal."
Two men, Richard Daniels and Brian Bilodeau, were charged right after the raid.
Bilodeau's attorney, Tim Zerillo, tells CBS 13, "Mr. Bilodeau is a licensed caregiver under the Medical Use of Marijuana Act. At issue here is the interplay between Maine's partial decriminalization of medical marijuana and the federal government's insistence that marijuana is a schedule one substance, like heroin."
Attorney Lenny Sharon, who's representing Timmy Bellmore, said they still haven't had a look at any of the evidence.
The charges range from conspiracy to distribute marijuana to money laundering.
Prosecutors are asking the court to seize $315,000 in cash, jewelry, including a $37,000 diamond ring as well as five pieces of real estate.
The U.S Attorney's Office will only say the indictment speaks for itself.
The rest of the defendants and their attorneys either declined to comment on Wednesday, or could not be reached.