An Augusta man’s green thumb will cost him time in federal prison.
Marlon Cloutier, 48, was sentenced Monday to two years in prison followed by four years of supervised release for growing 148 marijuana plants inside a secured, fenced-in area at the Augusta State Airport, and for a second charge of cocaine possession.
The hearing was held in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Authorities charged Cloutier after a surveillance camera captured his image tending the plot they had discovered earlier. They also saw an image of another man, who was not identified, according to reports filed with the case in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
When Cloutier was interviewed by Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officers shortly after his arrest on Aug. 16, 2012, he confessed almost immediately, according to documents unsealed recently in U.S. District Court in Portland.
He pleaded guilty in February 2013 to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants and to a charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Cloutier also pleaded guilty at the same time to possessing 2.5 ounces of cocaine in South Portland on May 5, 2011.
Cloutier, convicted on six arson charges two decades ago and ordered to repay more than $126,000 in restitution, told officers when he was first charged that he and the other man planned to sell the marijuana because they needed money.
“They had previously grown marijuana near the airport but had it stolen, and he thought discovery of the marijuana plants would be less likely if the plants were inside the airport fence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Joyce wrote in the prosecution’s version of events.
At the time Cloutier pleaded guilty, Augusta State Airport Manager John Guimond said the growing patch was on the northeast side of the airport, heavily screened by pine trees and barely visible.
Guimond said he was told police were called after someone along the Nordic trails of the Bond Brook Recreation Area saw a man go into the woods and not emerge for hours. Augusta police officers conduct sporadic patrols of the airport perimeter and can see about 80 percent of the fence line from the airport plateau, Guimond said.
“He was under investigation for the cocaine charge, a relatively small amount, and because he was under investigation for that, when they discovered his involvement with marijuana, he did admit it right away,” Jon Haddow, Cloutier’s defense attorney, said previously.
Cloutier faced a minimum five-year prison term for the federal offense of conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants. There was no minimum mandatory sentence for the cocaine charge.
“It’s the marijuana charge that will drive this sentence,” Haddow said, and under the plea agreement, Cloutier retained the right to appeal any sentence of more than five years.
Cloutier’s criminal record includes a state conviction for six counts of arson in 1992 as well as a burglary conviction at the same time.
He and two other men were convicted in an arson spree that burned barns and a house in Belgrade and Sidney over a more than two-hour period on June 13-14, 1991. Prosecutors at the time said the men set the fires for fun.
Cloutier appealed his initial arson sentence and later was resentenced to a 20-year term.
Cloutier was released from state custody on Feb. 8, 2005, and completed his probation term April 1, 2012, according to Jody Breton, associate commissioner at the Maine Department of Corrections.
Haddow said Cloutier’s obligation to pay restitution to arson victims could be among the money problems he cited.
“He has been trying to make those restitution payments,” Haddow said. “He has three young children now and is essentially self-employed. He doesn’t earn a lot of money.”
Haddow noted that Cloutier has spent a lot of time in jail.
“When he’s been out of jail, he’s worked almost exclusively in dry-walling,” Haddow said.