A fire at a house in Marlboro led to the seizure of more than 300 pounds of marijuana and put cops on the trail of what they believe is a large-scale drug-trafficking organization operating in the Hudson Valley.
The investigation began on June 6 when members of the Marlboro police and fire departments responded to a blaze at 212 Bingham Lane. Cops and firefighters quickly determined that the single-family residence housed a major marijuana growing operation, complete with ventilation systems, ballasts, fertilizer, grow lights and counter-surveillance equipment. Cops also recovered instructions and ledgers at the house.
The operation, police said, was powered by an illegal splice into Central Hudson’s power grid to avoid tipping off authorities with an unusual pattern of power usage.
Authorities say the fire started in the basement with an electric motor, part of a complex ventilation system, before spreading through the walls to the attic. The fire damaged, but did not destroy, the house and left most of the evidence intact.
Once Marlborough police realized the nature of the growing operation, they called in the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team for assistance. Over the next week, the team executed search warrants at six locations and turned up six more grow houses. In addition to the house at 212 Bingham Lane, cops found grow houses operating at 216 and 260 Bingham, as well as 110 Lyons Lane in Marlboro. The investigation also uncovered two more growing operations at 17 and 23 Bright Star Drive in the Town of Newburgh.
Police say all of the houses were large, single-family, new-construction homes. The three Bingham Lane residences, cops said, had been entirely converted for growing purposes. All of the homes were owned by one person, police said, but they did not identify the owner.
Over the course of the investigation, police recovered about 325 pounds of marijuana in both processed and plant form. The weed, cops said, has a street value of about $800,000. Police believe the grow operation had been going on for at least a few years.
Police have made a single arrest in the case. Joseph I. Arredondo-Alarcon, 34, of 216 Bingham Lane was arrested after a traffic stop on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge on the evening of June 7. Arredondo-Alarcon was charged with felony first-degree criminal possession of marijuana and is being held at the Ulster County Jail.
Police say they are still in the early stages of the investigation and more arrests are expected. Among the angles police are exploring is whether marijuana from the houses was distributed locally, or grown in the Hudson Valley for sale elsewhere.
“It this has been going on for years I think it makes a huge impact,” said Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum. “If they’ve been selling here in the Hudson Valley, it’s a big impact.”