PORTLAND — Two brothers of a Turner man charged in federal court with an illegal pot growing operation were sentenced this week for helping him escape capture by federal agents.

Federal drug agents raided two warehouses on Conant Road in Turner where prosecutors claim Andrew Waite, 31, was growing hundreds of pot plants under the guise of Maine’s medical marijuana program.

During the Feb. 27, 2018, raid, agents executed more than 20 search warrants in the greater Twin Cities area that included the Turner locations.

Agents seized 146 pot plants and 527 pounds of harvested marijuana, plus 104 sheets of marijuana concentrate from one of the warehouses and 216 plants from the other warehouse. At his home, they found roughly 100 pounds of marijuana and about $216,000 in cash, according to court papers.

After the raid, prosecutors filed charges against Waite, but he had fled his home at 75 Nezinscott Drive in Turner and agents couldn’t find him. His family, including his brothers, was notified of the warrant pending for Waite’s arrest.

Aaron Waite, 28, formerly of Auburn but now of Portland, rented a hotel room for his brother in Miami, Florida, in early March while his older brother was on the lam and the two met at that hotel and stayed there together, according to court papers. Agents recovered text messages between the brothers and checked hotel records that confirmed the room rental, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Joyce wrote in court papers.

Later, Andrew Waite was tracked to North Carolina where someone delivered a 2016 Mercedes-Benz to him that he had co-registered with his brother Joshua Waite, 37, of Turner. In July, Joshua Waite changed the car registration, removing Andrew Waite’s name in an effort to help him avoid detection by law enforcement if stopped for a traffic infraction, according to court papers.

Aaron and Joshua Waite were charged with harboring a fugitive and both have agreed to plead guilty after waiving their rights to have a grand jury review the cases for probable cause.

The Class D felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Andrew Waite pleaded guilty to two counts of a grand jury indictment, including possession with intent to distribute marijuana, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and possession of an unregistered firearm, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He also pleaded guilty to new charges of manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants, punishable by between five and 40 years in prison and transferring property subject to seizure, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on those charges in March.

On April 18, 2018, Andrew Waite had signed over to brother Joshua Waite the deed to his Turner home, which was subject to forfeiture as a property facilitating an offense.

All three Waite brothers agreed to forfeit any ownership of the 75 Nezinscott Drive home.

Prosecutors recommended a sentence of up to 90 months, or 7½ years in prison. If Andrew Waite’s sentence is more than 90 months, he may appeal it.

Aaron Waite appeared in U.S. District Court on Wednesday for sentencing, but U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal postponed the sentencing after learning from Waite that he had co-signed with Andrew Waite the lease on a Turner property where the grow operation took place.

Asked whether he knew what his older brother had planned for the rental space, Aaron Waite said he did. But he said his motivation had been “purely out of family loyalty and love.”

His attorney, Richard Berne, told the judge that Aaron’s older brother, Andrew, had served as a “mentor and best friend” while he was growing up because his biological father had been an “absent and dishonest parent.” Their mother suffers from a chronic medical condition caused by a blood disorder.

Aaron Waite had been a licensed medical marijuana provider in Maine.

Singal moved Aaron Waite’s sentencing to Thursday, shortly after Joshua Waite’s sentencing was scheduled to occur.

On Thursday, Aaron and Joshua Waite appeared in federal court where they each were sentenced on a charge of harboring a fugitive and each was sentenced to two years of probation and a $4,000 fine. They had pleaded guilty in September to that charge.

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