LEWISTON — An Auburn man this week denied a federal charge that he conspired to manufacture and distribute marijuana plants in the Twin Cities for the past three years.

Mark Kilpatrick, 29, was indicted last month by a federal grand jury on a charge of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. The Class B felony is punishable by between five and 40 years in prison and fine of up to $5 million.

He pleaded not guilty Thursday at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Portland and was released on his own recognizance.

According to the indictment, the conspiracy took place between 2015 and Feb. 27, 2018, when federal agents executed 20 search warrants on properties in and around Lewiston and Auburn.

In all, 14 people were charged in a 41-count superseding indictment that also included a dozen area businesses believed to have been fronts used to launder illegal drug profits.

The aim of the raids was to bust a medical marijuana-growing operation that illegally sold surplus pot and derivatives, according to police and federal drug agents.

Prosecutors allege the drug-trafficking organization 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.

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