A Bellport man was the "architect" of a mail-order drug ring that shipped hundreds of pounds of high-grade marijuana from Northern California to Suffolk County, prosecutors said Wednesday.
During a 13-month investigation, authorities said Brian Poole, 27, imported 960 pounds of marijuana with a wholesale value of $2.5 million.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said other defendants -- including a Hamptons chef -- bought and resold the drug.Video2 LI men accused in bicoastal marijuana ringDataLI crime stats
"What's unusual about this type of an operation is that . . . this was a boutique marijuana operation," Spota said, noting that customers would request specific varieties of pot, such as "Girl Scout Cookies" or "Green Crack."
Harvested from rural farms, the marijuana would be placed in heat-sealed bags, which were then dipped in bleach or another cleanser to remove the odor, authorities said.
To further avoid detection, authorities said fabric softeners were inserted in the packages, which were mailed from post offices up and down the California coast to Suffolk addresses.
"They went to great, great lengths in order to disguise the fact that they were actually transporting or shipping marijuana from California to New York," Spota said.
Poole was arraigned Wednesday in a Riverhead courtroom on felony charges including fourth-degree conspiracy and marijuana possession. Defense attorney Robert A. Macedonio of Central Islip entered a not guilty plea on his client's behalf.
Eleven other defendants are also facing charges, including two other alleged ring leaders and two "resellers" -- Marco Barrila, 50, of Hampton Bays, and Eric Gomez, 29, of Calverton, prosecutors said.
Barrila, who operates Insatiable EATS, a catering company in the Hamptons, was charged with fourth-degree conspiracy. He was arrested Monday and released on his own recognizance, court records show.
Gomez, who prosecutors identified as Poole's main reseller, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to conspiracy, marijuana possession and other charges.
Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen L. Braslow set Gomez's bail at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond. Braslow ordered Poole held without bail.
Prosecutors said Poole devised the drug scheme while in prison for robbery with Steven Marfe, 26, of Astoria, Queens.
Marfe, who faces a conspiracy charge, was arrested on June 10 along with Poole and Gomez.
The investigation, involving wire taps and undercover agents, included the district attorney's office, Suffolk police and the federal Office of Homeland Security.
"The investigation revealed that Brian Poole is the architect of a million-dollar, California-to-New York pipeline of high-grade marijuana," Assistant District Attorney Jake Kubetz said in court.
From the trunk of Poole's Camaro, authorities seized more than $200,000 in cash, stashed in a pink backpack belonging to the defendant's daughter, Kubetz said.
The total amount of pot seized wasn't disclosed.
According to prosecutors, Poole used his Bellport and Bay Shore homes to prepare the marijuana for distribution.
But Macedonio said Poole lives with his mother in Bay Shore and the Bellport home was vacant. "He's not the ringleader," the attorney said.
Spota said Poole placed his marijuana orders with Maigan Rodriguez, 25, of Redding, California, who got the pot from farms in the area.
Rodriguez pleaded not guilty Monday and was released on her own recognizance on conspiracy and marijuana possession charges.