Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff reports
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Marijuana grow operation busted


courtesy Pine County Attorney's Office

Some of the processed marijuana seized from the drug bust on Deerfield Road, Sturgeon Lake.

Three metro-area residents were arrested in Sturgeon Lake on May 18. Charles Dean Medgaarden of Faribault and Alexander James Armstrong of Golden Valley are charged with second-degree drug possession of over 100 marijuana plants. Kristie Mae Bleess is also charged with aiding drug possession in the second degree. All three have prior felony charges related to drugs.

A concerned citizen alerted a Pine County Sheriff's Office investigator on May 16 of a marijuana grow in Sturgeon Lake. The investigator trusted the source and looked into the address given. The property, he discovered, belongs to a couple living in Faribault, and it was purchased in September of 2016. He also noticed several structures spread out over the 40 acres.

After sending a subpoena to Lake County Power to inquire after the property's kilowatt-hour usage, the investigator noticed a significant increase between the months of September 2016 and April 2017. From 12 KWH in September to 3,053 in April, he found the numbers to be "abnormally high," especially when the residence appeared to be a second property of the owners, whose primary address is in Faribault.

The investigator asked the billing manager of Lake County Power if this usage is indeed unusual. The manager confirmed, "The numbers were extremely high and uncharacteristic for such a house." From the manager, he found out a second account was linked to the address. He found Bleess's name associated with this account. She signed a membership service agreement in November 2016.

Under the address associated with Bleess' account, the investigator discovered kilowatt-hour usage ranging from 48 KWH in December 2016, reaching peak in February 2017 at 6,417 KWH, and coming back down to 1,711 KWH in April 2017. According to the Statement of Probable Cause, "Lake County Power stated that these readings were extremely high."

May 18, Lake County Power alerted the investigator of activity on the property subject to his investigation. A technician drove out to the property in order to "disconnect the power for non-payment." While there, the technician observed two large sheds, a camper and a rundown house. There also was "a huge oxygen tank outside the sheds ... and about a dozen propane tanks next to the shed." The technician also smelled marijuana coming from the sheds. After disconnecting the power, "he heard what sounded like a large motor slowly turning off from within the sheds." Reportedly, based on the power readings and what he observed on the property, the technician "was certain it was a marijuana grow."

A warrant was obtained and a search conducted on May 23. Nobody was present at the property at the time of the search. After stopping a vehicle that turned around in the property's driveway and talking with the owner of the vehicle, who knew all three charged, the investigator made contact with Bleess. She agreed to meet him at the property and brought Medgaarden and Armstrong with her.

The grow started in January of this year. The necessary items to make the grow possible were already in place by that time. According to the report, Medgaarden intended to sell the marijuana to "make some quick cash." Already he had moved two to three pounds of it off the property, but "the business has not been profitable." Only he and Armstrong were involved in the operation at this point, he said.

In total, 232 marijuana plants were seized from the property, weighing out at 17.5 pounds.

Medgaarden, Bleess and Armstrong each face no less than three years and up to 40 years, with a possible additional $500,000 fine, if convicted.


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