PORTLAND — A Vermont man on Tuesday denied a drug charge stemming from federal raids in the Twin Cities in February that ensnared more than a dozen suspects.
Charles Caliri, 70, of Woodstock, Vermont, was charged earlier this month with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The aim of the Feb. 27 raids on 20 locations in the Twin Cities area was to bust a medical marijuana-growing operation that illegally sold surplus pot and derivatives, according to police and federal drug agents.
Caliri pleaded not guilty to the charge when he responded to a summons Tuesday morning to U.S. District Court with his hired attorney, Peter Rodway, who told the judge he planned to file a suppression motion before the end of November.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rich III freed Caliri on an unsecured $10,000 bond and issued an order outlining the conditions for his release, including surrender of his passport in one week, no contact with any co-defendants (except with legal counsel) nor with any government witnesses. He is allowed to travel to Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont and elsewhere as allowed by his probation officer.
Rich told Caliri that while he is on bail, he is prohibited from having or using marijuana, a federally controlled drug that Caliri uses medicinally. Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont have legalized the recreational use of the drug.
Caliri was named one of 14 people and nine companies indicted Oct. 5 by a federal grand jury. Prosecutors have alleged that a drug-trafficking organization operating out of the Twin Cities grew and distributed large amounts of marijuana under the cover of Maine’s medical marijuana program, but sold marijuana to buyers who were not participants in the program and included out-of-state customers. The businesses named in the indictment are alleged to have laundered the illicit drug proceeds.
Seven more people named in the indictment are scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court on Thursday, along with four related businesses.
Federal drug agents confiscate marijuana plants in a warehouse behind a used car business on Lisbon Street in February during a raid that targeted 20 locations in the Twin Cities. (Sun Journal file photo)