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Manorville marijuana ‘forest’ seized, man arrested, officials say

Donald Guichard, of Manorville, was arraigned Sept. 20,

Donald Guichard, of Manorville, was arraigned Sept. 20, 2017, on felony charges related to what Suffolk police said was a "forest" of marijuana plants being cultivated at his residence. Credit: Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office

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. ”

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