PORTLAND — Two men were sentenced in federal court Tuesday without prison time for their respective roles in a multimillion-dollar conspiracy in Androscoggin County to grow and sell marijuana and its derivatives under the guise of the Maine Medical Marijuana program.

Danny Bellmore, 54, of Greene was sentenced to three years of probation and a $15,000 fine on a charge of engaging in a monetary transaction in property derived from specified unlawful activity, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Brandon Knutson, 37, of Lewiston pleaded guilty in 2019 to conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, a felony punishable by between five and 40 years in prison. He was sentenced Tuesday to the day he already spent in jail after his arrest, plus two years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

Federal officials served search warrants at many locations centered in Lewiston and Auburn in February 2018, seizing roughly $1.4 million in cash and more than 2,000 marijuana plants.

Bellmore worked at a warehouse at 230 Merrow Road in Auburn operated as part of the conspiracy. He was in charge of one of the cultivation rooms and was paid an hourly wage, plus bonuses for successful harvests.

On Feb. 19, 2016, he transferred more than $10,000 in cash to a dealership to buy a pickup truck.


By the time of his sentencing, Bellmore had already agreed to forfeit $59,000 in cash that were proceeds from his work at the warehouse. He gave up ownership of a four-wheel-drive 2018 GMC Sierra Denali 2500 and a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS 396 coupe.

In court Tuesday, Bellmore expressed regrets.

“I got involved in something I shouldn’t have,” he told the judge. He said he knew the lucrative work was “too good to be true” and had been in the process of leaving the operation when he was charged.

“I accept full responsibility,” he said.

U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal said the wide-ranging conspiracy attracted otherwise “exemplary individuals” such as Bellmore, who had served as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and had no criminal record.

“I’m trying to understand how someone with your reputation gets involved with a bunch of criminals,” Singal said.


“It was a lapse in judgment,” Bellmore said.

He said he used the money to provide for his family.

Bellmore’s brother, Timmy, was sentenced last year to seven-and-a-half years in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy, plus 30 months for evading more than $200,000 in income taxes.

Timmy Bellmore was involved at a higher level in the operation, including playing a role in the acquisition of cultivation locations, the design of marijuana grow rooms, the cultivation of plants and the distribution of finished product during the conspiracy’s existence, according to prosecutors.

Knutson worked in one of the grow buildings belonging to the lead conspirators.

During the next two years, Knutson must not have any controlled substances for which he will be tested and for which he can be searched if suspected of violating those terms.


Knutson told the judge Tuesday that he has been “living in fear, shame and regret” since his arrest in 2018.

“I truly am sorry for what I’ve done,” he said. He said he didn’t know the operation was illegal when he went to work for the operation.

“I saw an opportunity,” he said.

He told the judge, “I guarantee you, you will never see me again.”

Singal told Knutson, “I still don’t understand” how decent people like Knutson could have gotten involved with the “crooks” who organized the drug-trafficking scheme.

According to investigators, marijuana and its derivatives were sold in and out of state.


Leaders of the conspiracy had purchased high-performance luxury sports cars such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris with their ill-gotten gains and laundered drug proceeds through businesses and other assets, Singal said.

Co-conspirators collected real and fake medical marijuana cards in an effort to present a facade of being a legitimate medical marijuana supplier, according to court papers.

A total of 15 people were caught in the raid by federal investigators, plus several businesses that served as cover for laundering the drug money.

All but two of those 15 have been sentenced. The remaining two men have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

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