NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 27, 2012

Police: Abandoned fish plant used for marijuana production

By Angeljean Chiaramida STAFF WRITER
Newburyport Daily News

---- — SALISBURY — A Seabrook man awaits prosecution for cultivating marijuana plants in what was supposed to be a vacant Salisbury building, after police seized several large plants from his van Thursday night.

Jeffrey Snyder, 40, of 28 Farm Lane, Seabrook, was arrested about 6:30 Thursday night, following Salisbury Police Department surveillance of a Rabbit Road establishment that formerly housed a seafood processing business. He was charged with intent to distribute class D drugs (marijuana) and possession of more than an ounce of marijuana.

Arraigned on Friday, Snyder was ordered held on $500 bail by Judge Peter Doyle. His next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 31.

According to Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler, after receiving a tip about a week ago that a significant marijuana-growing concern was underway at the former seafood processing and packaging plant, members of the police department placed the building under surveillance. The investigation was run by the department’s detective division with help from patrol officers, Fowler said, and on Thursday night that surveillance paid off.

“As the officer was watching the place, he saw a van leaving,” Fowler said. “The officer followed the van, and through the window he could see a number of large marijuana plants in the van. Not only could the officer (Sgt. Tim Hunter) see the plants, but the driver didn’t have his headlights on.”

The lack of headlights gave reason to make the traffic stop, Fowler said, and Hunter found several three- to four-foot tall plants in the van. He then arrested Snyder, who was booked at the police station.

Since police saw the van pull away from the Rabbit Road establishment, officers were posted at the building, Fowler said. After a search warrant was applied for and received, police entered and searched the building.

“When we entered, we found what looked like a pretty elaborate undertaking to grow marijuana that appeared to be dismantled, as if it was being moved,” Fowler said. “We found lights and timers, the type used in cultivating plants indoors. We also found what looked like a couple of other businesses going on there.”

Fowler said it appeared some sort of seafood business was still going on, along with what might be a leather tannery.

“We found a room that had a lot of chemicals in it, and what first came to mind was a possible meth lab,” Fowler said, who went to the scene during the search. “Merrimac Chief (Eric) Shears has had some experience with meth labs, so he was called to come over and take a look. He did and determined it was not a meth lab.”

According to the assessors office, the property is owned by Seacoast Seafood Sales, Inc., with a mailing address of a post office box in Hampton, N.H. But according to chief Assessor Cheryl Gorniewicz, the seafood business hasn’t been run for years, and the building is supposed to be vacant. There is no current occupancy permit associated with it or any business located there, she said.

On about half an acre of land, the building is about 5,300 square feet, she said. According to its last inspection, the structure had dry storage and offices in the front, with a rear section that includes a freezer, coolers and packing room, she said.

The assessed value of the property is currently is $460,900, Gorniewicz said, but property taxes haven’t been paid for the first quarter of this fiscal year, which were due in August, and the payment due on Nov. 1 has also not been received.

Fowler said the investigation is still ongoing, and anyone with information is urged to contact Salisbury Detective Sgt. Anthony King at 978-465-3121. Those who want to report information anonymously, can call the Salisbury Police Tip Line at 978-229-2039.