Two New Sharon men charged with stealing marijuana from police storage
FARMINGTON - Two men have been charged with stealing more than 34 pounds of marijuana and more than 600 plants being held as evidence in a Maine Drug Enforcement Agency investigation in September from a garage being utilized by police as storage space.
Todd Welch, 29, and Josh Allen, 26, both of New Sharon, have been charged with burglary and theft, both Class C felonies, as well as falsifying physical evidence and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors. Additionally, Welch has been charged with violating the conditions of his release on an unrelated case. A third man, Scott Bard, 39, of Farmington, has been charged with unlawful possession of a scheduled drug, after police say they discovered oxycontin pills in his residence.
On Sept. 7, MDEA agents executed search warrants at residences in Weld and Township 6. Two men, Tad Smith, 35, and his father Joesph Smith, 62, were arrested on marijuana cultivation charges. Police said, as part of the case, they seized more than 1,000 marijuana plants, several pounds of dry marijuana buds and other evidence. This material was transported in two truckloads to Farmington, where the Farmington Police Department said it agreed to let the MDEA store the evidence in a locked garage on town-owned property.
The garage, located near the intersection of High Street and Farmington Falls Road, has been used by the department to store tires, bicycles, hazard signs and similar material. The MDEA wanted to store the marijuana there overnight, making arrangements to have it transported and destroyed the next morning. According to the affidavit and request for a warrant of arrest, filed by MDEA Special Agent Brian Ross with the Franklin County Superior Court, the second truckload of evidence arrived at roughly 9 p.m. in the evening.
Sometime that evening, before the daylight hours of Sept. 8, the locked overhead garage door was forced open with a large pry bar. On a visit to the garage at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Ed Hastings, an investigator with the state's Fire Marshal's Office, and FPD Chief Jack Peck discovered the forced entry.
Ross, in the court documents, reported seeing a trail of marijuana plants leading from the second floor of the facility, down a flight of stairs and proceeding from there across the garage parking lot and along a hedgerow. There the trail ended, with Ross reporting that he found a larger concentration of material, possibly indicating the spot the plants were stacked while being loaded into a vehicle. A police dog with the Maine State Police was unable to follow the track any further, as it had rained overnight.
Police canvassed the neighborhood asking if anyone saw anything, but reported no immediate leads at that time.
On Sept. 19, FPD received a call from an individual, who wanted to speak to the MDEA about the burglary. The individual, whom Ross described as a "Cooperating Defendant," was reportedly facing felony charges and had claimed he had been asked to participate in the alleged burglary. A representative from the District Attorney's Office, Ross, the "Cooperating Defendant" and his attorney met on Sept. 21.
According to the affidavit, the witness told the authorities that Welch and Bard had approached him about aiding in a burglary of the garage. Bard's girlfriend, according to the witness, had observed police officers unloading the marijuana on Sept. 8 and had told Bard about what she saw.
Welch and Bard, police believe, formulated the plan to break into the facility, although Bard did not want to participate in the actual break-in. Instead, police say, Allen, who owns a pickup truck, was contacted and agreed to assist Welch in moving the marijuana out of the building.
"According to CD #001 [the witness]," Ross' affidavit reads, "was told by Welch and Allen that they made multiple trips in and out of the evidence facility and loaded the plants into Allen's truck."
The cooperating defendant told authorities that Allen received 20 pounds of marijuana, while Welch and Bard received seven pounds each. Thirty-four pounds, the court document noted, was consistent with the amount of processed marijuana seized by police.
Arrest warrents were issued for Allen and Welch, along with search warrants for Allen's part-time residences in Farmington, a 1995 Ford Ranger pickup, the Bard residence in Farmington and the Welch residence in New Sharon. Investigators also searched a residence in Farmington on the Box Shop Road and another location in New Sharon near the Post Office. Police say they recovered some of the stolen marijuana plants but it is unclear at which locations those plants were found.
"Some of the stripped plants still had the evidence tape wrapped around the base of the stalks..." read a Department of Public Safety prepared statement released today, "leaving no doubt, that the plant material was part of the stolen evidence."
Police say that additional charges and suspects could be forthcoming as the investigation continues.