A Manorville man cultivated a “forest” of marijuana plants in a “subterranean grow house” where he dwelled among his crops, the Suffolk sheriff’s office said after a raid.
Donald Guichard, 57, lived underground in part of a 40-foot-by-20-foot space dug out under an equipment storage building — a pot farm only accessible through flooring that was actually a motorized lift, Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Sharkey said.
“He created a lift, like a piece of the floor that went up and down on cables, so if you went in, you wouldn’t even realize there was a basement below,” Sharkey said Monday. “The lift had to be released and dropped and a staircase lowered into the pit.”
More than 100 live plants and about 30 pounds of plants hung to dry, with a street value conservatively estimated at more than $100,000, were seized in the Sept. 19 raid, authorities said. Investigators also intercepted a package sent out with two pounds of marijuana, officials said.
Guichard, of Old School House Road in Manorville, was arraigned Sept. 20 on several felonies, including first-degree sale of marijuana, criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a weapon. He also was booked on misdemeanor second-degree criminal tampering for allegedly stealing electricity for the grow lamps. He remained jailedpending bail of $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.
This was not Guichard’s first arrest over a pot farm, according to law enforcement officials and his attorney.
Guichard pleaded guilty in 2012 in connection with a marijuana operation on the same property and has been awaiting sentencing for five years, said his attorney, Craig McElwee of Hauppauge. The delays stemmed from a 2014 DWI arrest and injuries in two armed robberies and a burglary at his home, the attorney said.
McElwee, retained Monday on the new charges, said he has not spoken about them with Guichard, a tomato farmer who grew up in Louisiana and, his attorney added, welcomed New York’s legalization of medicinal marijuana.
“He was in the process of trying to become a legal marijuana grower,” McElwee said. “Don is just a very down home, basic guy. He goes catfishing in Louisiana and will bring me catfish and shrimp from Louisiana.”
The new case developed from an informant’s tip and from a Northport Village police officer, who recalled that a suspect in an unrelated case two years ago had mentioned a Manorville marijuana grow operation, Sharkey said.
Access to Guichard’s storage building was on a dirt track off Old School House Road, a path that veered deep into the trees, Sharkey said.
The underground marijuana farm had ventilation and grow lamps and part of it was finished — Guichard’s living space, Sharkey said.
“Even what he was using as a bedroom had harvested marijuana hanging in it,” the deputy sheriff said. “He was using all of the space. ”