An illegal marijuana operation was run out of this location at 29 Avon Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

PORTLAND — A corporation was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine Thursday in federal court for allowing a tenant to use a Lewiston building to grow marijuana illegally.

Matthew Fournier appeared in U.S. District Court as the agent for Willie Mo Entertainment Inc. LLC, which owned a building at 29 Avon St. in Lewiston.

According to prosecutors, the corporation leased the building to Timmy Bellmore of Lewiston to grow marijuana. Bellmore, a convicted felon, was prohibited from having a license to grow medical marijuana, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Joyce said Thursday.

After pleading guilty last spring, the corporation forfeited the property, which was valued at $75,000, according to Portland attorney Bruce Merrill, who represented the corporation. According to court papers, Fournier was one of two shareholders of the corporation.

Merrill said his client had “presumed” Bellmore had been licensed legally to grow medical marijuana under Maine law and that what he was doing there was “legitimate.” Fournier had become aware at some point later that Bellmore wasn’t in compliance with state law, but allowed him to continue using the Avon Street location for a total of less than two months before federal agents raided the place in February 2018.

Merrill said the corporation didn’t benefit from the pot growing operation other than the rent paid. He said his client had had a pot growing operation at that site under the medical marijuana program earlier, but had decided “to get out of it.”

In an April plea agreement, the corporation, represented by Fournier, admitted to the charge of maintaining a drug involved premises. The corporation had faced a fine of up to $2 million on that charge.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop the additional charge of conspiracy to manufacture and to distribute more than 100 marijuana plants and 100 kilograms of more of marijuana in violation of federal law.

On Feb. 27, 2018, federal drug agents executed a search warrant at the Avon Street building and seized about 347 marijuana plants, Joyce wrote in court papers.

That same day, agents raided more than 20 locations in and around the Twin Cities, armed with federal search warrants.

In October 2018, a federal grand jury indicted 14 people and businesses in connection with the earlier raid.

What prosecutors characterized as “The Marijuana Trafficking Organization” was a conspiracy operating in Androscoggin County and elsewhere, with the aim of enriching its members through the cultivation and distribution of large quantities of marijuana in violation of federal law, and under the cover of, but in violation of, Maine’s medical marijuana program, according to court papers.

Between 2015 and February 27, 2018, the organization cultivated marijuana at numerous locations in Androscoggin County and distributed marijuana to people who were not participants in Maine’s medical marijuana program, including out-of-state customers. The organization also grew marijuana as a precursor for the illegal manufacture of butane hash oil, according to court papers.

Bellmore, 43, of Lewiston was indicted on one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. That crime carries a sentence of five to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million. Bellmore was also indicted on a count of manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants and three counts of money laundering.

Bellmore allegedly laundered drug money across state lines through TMB Auto, LLC. Specifically, a total of $65,000 in drug money was funneled through the business in 2017, according to the indictment.

Bellmore was an active participant in the conspiracy’s daily operations, prosecutors said. He was involved with the acquisition of cultivation locations, the design of marijuana grow rooms, the cultivation of plants, and the distribution of finished product during the duration of the conspiracy’s existence, they said.

Several defendants named in the 2018 grand jury indictment as well as some charged separately have pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from the Feb. 27, 2018, raid and some of them have been sentenced.

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