SAVOY -- A 52-year-old town man who allegedly grew thousands of dollars worth of marijuana plants in Savoy State Forest was arraigned Wednesday in Northern Berkshire District Court on charges resulting from a four-year investigation.
Steven Andrews of Loop Road plead not guilty to 10 counts of unsecured firearms, 10 counts of possession of a firearm without a Firearms Identification card, two counts of cultivation of marijuana and single counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a school zone drug violation, possession of ammunition without a license and obstruction of justice in court Wednesday.
"It was a good investigation," Adams Police Detective Lawrence Ordyna said Wednesday. "We worked with different agencies specializing in different aspects of investigation. Now it's up to our court system to decide what's best."
Andrews was arrested after state and local police officers and members of Berkshire County Drug Task Force (BCDTF) and Berkshire County Sheriff's Department say they found packaged and growing marijuana with an approximate $35,000 street value in his home and nearby properties during a Sept. 24, 2012 raid. This included more than five pounds of packaged marijuana and 12 growing plants.
Police reports say 10 unsecured firearms were also seized, and Andrews' Firearms Identification card expired in 2011.
Andrews was released on personal recognizance after the arrest. He has hired
Army National Guard (ANG) flyovers and video surveillance of a grow site helped compile the evidence needed to attain a search warrant on Andrews' home, according to a police report by Massachusetts State Police Trooper John T. Stec.
Investigation began in 2008 after members of the ANG and BCDTF, who coordinate in a program called Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression, located several plants growing in a swampy, wooded area between Hawley and Horton roads.
The plants were seized but no suspects existed at the time.
However, police continued receiving tips and an informant later stepped forward. According to Stec's report, the informant had witnessed Andrews and another male drive into the woods on four-wheelers and come back carrying duffel bags several times in recent years.
The investigation picked up in summer 2012, as an ANG flyover confirmed additional plants growing in the same swamp location and Ordyna and other officers went on foot to stake out the site with a surveillance camera.
"If [a grow operation] is significant and we have an opportunity to set up on it, that's what we do," Ordyna said.
Andrews was recorded trimming and harvesting plants at the site on Sept. 19 and Sept. 21, according to the report.
One shed where Andrews allegedly kept marijuana plants was 238 feet away from the Emma L. Miller Elementary School on Loop Road, leading to the school zone drug violation charge against him.
According to court documents, Andrews told police in an interview that he had found and not planted any marijuana in the swamp, and the plants growing in his shed were the result of marijuana seeds falling into the soil with his tomato crops.
A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for April 8.
To reach Phil Demers, email