STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A Staten Island man was arrested in connection with a marijuana grow operation discovered in western Massachusetts worth an estimated $3 million, authorities say.
Yebin Mai, 28, of Staten Island, and Bin Huang, 32, of Brooklyn, were charged with marijuana trafficking and each are being held on $100,000 bond following an arraignment in a Massachusetts district court, the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) announced online.
Both defendants were due back in court Friday.
Recreational marijuana is legal to possess in personal amounts in Massachusetts, and to sell at dispensaries, but only by state-licensed companies held to a standard of safety regulations, and taxed accordingly.
Police were alerted in late July of suspicious activity at a home in Savoy, Mass. — a rural town in the Berkshires — after workers with the Eversource power company were dispatched to the address for a safety check.
Wires purportedly had been overloaded and damaged by excessive electricity use from the house, while records indicated the home was using $10,000 in electricity every month, the state police said.
The workers encountered Mai as he exited the house. The defendant told them he didn’t speak English, refused them access to the house, then stuffed an envelope with $100 bills into one of the lineman’s vest pocket, police allege.
When the worker attempted to return the money, Mai allegedly pushed the man’s hand away. The crew then alerted police they were being blocked from performing their duties. When state police arrived at the scene, Mai attempted leaving the property with two other males in a pickup truck.
When questioned by a state trooper, Mai allegedly said he did not speak English. The trooper returned the money and allowed the men to leave pending further investigation.
Days later, after a warrant was issued, a police investigation uncovered nearly 3,600 marijuana plants packed into multiple rooms of the house, authorities allege.
Huang is listed as the homeowner, after purchasing it in 2017 for $200,000 cash, authorities said.
Authorities also are searching for two other men seen leaving the property with Mai in a white pickup truck on the day electric workers attempted to perform the safety check.
Their identities are known to the Massachusetts State Police.
A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR GROW HOUSE
Officers who responded to the house in question cited the sound of multiple fans running inside, the MSP announcement said.
After the power was shut off and the fans stopped running, “the smell of fresh marijuana became much stronger around the residence,” MSP said.
The backyard was covered with debris from what appeared to be extensive renovations in the house, and “mixed in with the debris were large green pots used for planting, and some large florescent light fixtures.”
Police said all of the windows were shielded from inside with curtains and what appeared to be plywood, while surveillance cameras tracked the comings and goings at each entrance.
Behind the house, at the end of a “worn path” in a wooded area, was a “very large pile” of used potting soil. Roots and stalks in the soil where plants had been harvested were identified by troopers as discarded marijuana roots, based on their training and experience, according to state police.
Inside the house, state and federal investigators entered the cellar where troopers detected an “overwhelming odor of fresh marijuana.” The room was full of marijuana plants, along with a network of lights, chemicals, a sophisticated hydro system and an advanced ventilation system, police said.
Five other rooms in the cellar were used to store marijuana plants and growing supplies, in addition to multiple rooms on the first floor, state police said.
FEDS: CHINESE NATIONALS BEHIND GROW OPERATIONS
The bust in Savoy was one of two in Western Massachusetts that same week, MassLive reported.
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration arrested two Chinese nationals at a warehouse in Monson, where they allegedly found 1,100 marijuana plants — plus 3,000 more at four residential properties in that town and neighboring Palmer.
The defendants, both in their 40s, were charged with manufacturing marijuana and processing marijuana with intent to distribute in U.S. District Court. One of the men told agents he traveled to the area from Chicago for the sole purpose of growing marijuana.
The man’s attorney referred to his client as a “dupe,” and a low-level player in a larger-scale marijuana trafficking ring.