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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 21, 2016

Henderson Co. Marijuana Grow Operator Sentenced To Prison

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger sentenced a Henderson County marijuana grow operator to 54 months in prison, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  Gary Maxwell Lee, 48, of Hendersonville, was also ordered to remain under court supervision for three years after his release from prison.

U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by Daniel R. Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which oversees the Charlotte District Office; Janie Sutton, Acting Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; and Sheriff Charles S. McDonald of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, in May 2015, law enforcement began their investigation into Lee, after receiving information that he was operating an extensive indoor marijuana growing operation.  According to court records, Lee ran the marijuana grow house from two structures located next to the main home owned by Lee.  Court records indicate that as part of the investigation law enforcement searched Lee’s house and the two structures located on the property, seizing 66 marijuana plants, 10.4 pounds of marijuana in various stages of drying and processing, and $4,245 in cash.  Court records indicate that one of the structures was used as a “nursery” for the younger plants, whereas the larger, more mature plants were stored in the second structure.  Lee had set up in the structures extensive lighting, air filtration, and hydration systems to assist in the growth of the plants. Law enforcement also seized numerous firearms, including shotguns and semi-automatic rifles, as well as twelve ammo cans containing thousands of rounds of ammunition.

According to court records, Lee took steps to avoid detection of his marijuana grow operation by law enforcement, including taking his trash to the dump or burning it, and using carbon filters to cut down on the odor emanating from the grow.   Court records show that Lee has a previous conviction in Florida related to the manufacture of marijuana. 

Lee pleaded guilty in December 2015 to manufacturing marijuana and being a felon in possession of firearms.  He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to custody of the Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.  Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole. 

DEA, SBI, and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.  Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Kent of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville handled the prosecution.

              

Updated April 21, 2016