Federal drug agents visit a home on Sabattus Street in Lewiston in February 2018 in connection with a marijuana distribution and manufacturing investigation. Christopher Williams/Sun Journal file photo

PORTLAND — A judge sentenced a Lewiston man Tuesday to six years in federal prison for his role in an illegal marijuana growing and selling operation in 2018.

U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal imposed the sentence on Richard “Stitch” Daniels, 56, more than a year after Daniels pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants and 100 or more kilograms of marijuana.

The minimum penalty for the felony is five years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million.

On Tuesday, Daniels was fined $2,500.

After his release from prison, he’ll be on supervised release for five years, Singal said. During that time, he’ll be barred from having alcohol and illegal drugs for which he can be tested upon reasonable suspicion.

Prosecutors had agreed to drop six related charges from an October 2018 grand jury indictment.

On Feb. 27, 2018, federal agents fanned out across Androscoggin County executing more than 20 search warrants on suspected illegal marijuana growing operations.

A grand jury handed up an indictment that named more than a dozen defendants, including businesses prosecutors said were used to launder drug proceeds.

Agents searched Daniels’ home and an adjacent garage where they seized roughly 119 kilograms of marijuana, 27 sheets of marijuana concentrate, and equipment used to manufacture marijuana concentrate, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

From 2015 to Feb. 27, 2018, Daniels was a member of a broad-based organization that cultivated marijuana at numerous locations in Androscoggin County under the guise of Maine’s Medical Marijuana program and distributed bulk marijuana to people who were not participants in that program, including out-of-state customers, prosecutors said.

Daniels was an “active participant” in the conspiracy’s daily operations and personally supplied bulk quantities of marijuana to the conspiracy’s customers, including those from outside of Maine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Besides selling bulk marijuana, Daniels processed the plants into concentrate form known as “dabs,” which he also sold illegally, prosecutors said.

During his plea hearing, Daniels said he had gone as far as the eighth grade in school, but had later earned a General Educational Development certificate, the equivalent of a high school diploma.

His attorney, Luke Rioux, said in a sentencing memorandum that although marijuana is illegal under federal law, it has since been legalized for recreational use in Maine.

“It seems clearer than ever that we are on the wrong side of history here,” Rioux wrote. “We can all expect that marijuana policy will continue to move forward in the coming years. Given the new administration’s position on these issues, we expect a change in enforcement policy and expect that federal law may change to decriminalize marijuana and remove mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana crimes.”

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