NORRIDGEWOCK — One woman was arrested and more than 1,000 cannabis plants were seized as authorities conducted the latest series of raids of illegal marijuana cultivation facilities inside central Maine residences, authorities confirmed Tuesday.

More than 1,000 marijuana plants, over 30 pounds of processed cannabis, and other “drug paraphernalia and documentation” was confiscated when authorities executed search warrants at two residences in Norridgewock and one in Madison, according to Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster.

Each of the operations was similar to other illegal growing sites that have popped up throughout Maine, Lancaster said, as the homes had been nearly entirely hollowed out to make room for industrial-scale marijuana cultivation with small spaces for laborers to live.

“These homes have been turned into large growing operations,” Lancaster said Tuesday. “As with most of the ones we’ve busted so far, we saw very sparse living arrangements inside them.”

The first bust occurred on March 18 at a residence on Perkins Street in Norridgewock, registered to an owner from New York, where authorities seized nearly 400 cannabis plants but found no one inside, Lancaster said.

Two more search warrants were executed a week later on March 25, when Somerset County Sheriff officers raided a pair of properties, one on Thurston Hill Road in Madison and one on Upper Main Street in Norridgewock.


Jiamin Liao, 29, was arrested and charged with illegal cultivation of marijuana and unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs as a result of the bust. She is the registered owner of both properties raided on March 25, and authorities say she has residences listed under her ownership in Maine, California and New York.

Liao was booked at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison on Monday afternoon. Her bail was set at $10,000, according to the jail’s booking department, which she posted around 7:30 p.m. Monday evening.

Lancaster declined to specify if the properties were connected to one another, though he did say the busts were part of a broader effort to eliminate the hundreds of suspected illegal cannabis facilities across the state.

“This continues to be an ongoing investigation surrounding these grows,” he said. “We understand there’s more work to be done to curtail this activity.”

The raids were conducted in cooperation with the DEA and U.S. Border Patrol, Lancaster said. The Somerset and Kennebec County District Attorney’s Offices and the United States Attorney’s Office helped with the monthslong investigation into cannabis cultivation at the residences.

Somerset Sheriffs have conducted raids at 10 such properties in Skowhegan, Norridgewock, Madison and Mercer over the last two months, arresting at least eight people so far and confiscating upwards of 12,000 cannabis plants. Nearly three dozen similar operations have been busted across the state since January.

In late January, Maine’s congressional delegation asked the U.S. Department of Justice to take action against such operations, citing a report that the operations could be worth more than $4 billion.

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