In Bangor, Maine a Farmington resident has pleaded guilty in Federal court for “conspiring to possess and distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and 1,000 marijuana plants, according to the US Attorney for Maine. On the surface, this would look like a typical marijuana farm and distribution operation similar to what we’re seeing crop up across the nation as ‘weed laws’ have relaxed. Randal Cousineau, facing life in prison and $10 million in fines took the plea and revealed a massive organization of 12 other defendants.
In a press release from the Department of Justice, US Attorney Darcie N. McElwee, described the operation,
“According to court documents, from about 2016 through July 2020, Randal Cousineau, 69, participated in a conspiracy to illegally cultivate and sell marijuana. Cousineau was the primary financier and 50% partner with a co-conspirator in an illegal marijuana cultivation facility in Farmington. He also held an interest in an illegal marijuana distribution company. Members of the conspiracy cultivated and sold marijuana in violation of Maine’s medical marijuana laws, selling bulk marijuana illicitly to individuals who were not registered as caregivers, and for distribution outside of the state of Maine. Cousineau realized hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit from these illegal sales.”
And now the Feds have swooped in with civil forfeitures on properties possibly owned by the Sirois family or family members, Spruce Valley LLC, and Front Street Investments. Six of the properties are in Farmington, two in Rangeley, two in Industry, one in Avon, and one in Carrabassett Valley.
This story seems like a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when you’re working in an industry that is “questionably legal”. As the operation became more sophisticated and money flowed in, local law enforcement officers were allegedly put on the payroll, given company cars and ownership shares “to obtain information about the ongoing federal investigation into his criminal activity.” In addition to tipping off their cohorts “all three officials later destroyed electronic evidence of their wrongdoing with Scovil and Doucette in order to conceal it from investigators.” Furthermore, a local Selectman, a city councilman for all intents and purposes, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in cash payments, including investment in his internet start-up company in exchange for advocating for their preferred agenda in town government, including voting to advance a marijuana ordinance that they had drafted to a town referendum. This perhaps shows a desire among the group to “go legit” so to speak.
Good Intentions, Gone Awry In the Blurry World Of Weed Operations?
A 2010 report from the Press Herald paints the picture that the Sirois family were seemingly trying to do everything the right way with Luke and Lisa Sirois poised to open four dispensaries spending tens of thousands on applications and fees with the state. Only to have it come crashing down a decade later.
According to The Bangor Daily News,
“Lucas Sirois is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, bank fraud, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and tax evasion.”
The allegations are that Lucas and 11 codefendants “cultivated and sold marijuana in violation of Maine’s medical marijuana laws, selling bulk marijuana to people who were not registered as caregivers, and for distribution outside of Maine.” The group is already beginning to make their first court appearances.
This is one of the shortfalls of investing in the marijuana business. You must take great care in knowing precisely how legal the company you’re investing in is.