Woman charged in Brooklyn Federal Court with raising thousands of pot plants

June 19, 2013 By Charisma L. Miller, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A woman from Scarsdale, N.Y., has been accused of growing large quantities of marijuana plants out of a facility in Maspeth, Queens. 

After significant investigation by various federal agencies, an indictment was filed in Brooklyn Federal Court charging Andrea Sanderlin with manufacturing and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute it and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

When she was arrested, federal agents seized over 2,800 marijuana plants, large quantities of dried marijuana, and state-of-the-art marijuana growing equipment from the marijuana grow house.

“Hidden in a warehouse in Maspeth, Queens, this $3 million distribution operation was uncovered as part of a Strike Force investigation,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent-in-Charge Brian R. Crowell.  

The indictments allege that Sanderlin operated a warehouse that contained state-of-the-art lighting, irrigation, electrical, and ventilation systems to facilitate growing the marijuana — with electricity bills reaching $9,000 a month.”

“Sanderlin turned a commonplace warehouse in the heart of Queens into a sophisticated center for growing massive quantities of marijuana for distribution,” said Loretta E. Lynch, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “Sanderlin could have focused her talents on building a legitimate business enterprise to support her family and serve as a role model for her children.  Instead, she allegedly chose to inhabit the shadowy underworld of large-scale drug dealers, using drug proceeds to maintain her family’s façade of upper middle class stability.”

With approximately 2,800 marijuana plants and large quantities of dried marijuana from the warehouse, it is estimated that Sanderlin’s operation was worth over $3 million, causing some investigators to compare Sanderlin to drug cartels.

“There’s really no difference whether you’re a suburban mom growing marijuana in a warehouse in Queens or a cartel member making cocaine in the jungles of Colombia — manufacturing and distributing illegal narcotics comes at a hefty price when you are caught by law enforcement,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes, Jr.

The mother of two was arrested and pleaded not guilty in May 2013; the official indictment was filed Tuesday.

Marijuana is the “most abused drug in the nation,” according to Crowell. Given this status, government agencies “are committed to investigating and prosecuting organized drug activity in our communities, no matter who runs the organization or how well it is hidden,” said Lynch. “Those who use our neighborhoods to grow and introduce illegal drugs into the community will face the full force of the law.”

If convicted, the defendant faces a minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and up to $10 million in fines.

It is estimated that the marijuana was worth over $3 million.

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