for The Recorder

MAYFIELD — A local deputy’s sense of smell recently led the sheriff’s department to one of the biggest marijuana grow operations in the last five years, Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino said.

Authorities said Saturday, Dec. 10, a Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy who was serving a tax notice to an address on Route 30, Mayfield, smelled the strong odor of marijuana from over 30 feet away from the building as he approached to serve paperwork.

According to the release, the large grow operation was using every corridor of a small house located at 3350 State Highway Route 30. Police said Richard F. Baker, 48, of Woods Hollow Road, Mayfield, was arrested Thursday, Dec. 29 and charged with first-degree criminal possession of marijuana and growing cannabis by an unlicensed person under the state public health law.  

Giardino said his office obtained a search warrant from Fulton County Court Judge Polly Hoye and a large marijuana growing operation was discovered inside the unoccupied residence.

Authorities said Baker had marijuana at all stages of manufacturing, from small plants to packaged gallon bags labeled and ready to use. Giardino said usually grow operations are either in attics or cellars, but this one was throughout the entire small house.

The sheriff commended the deputy for pursuing the investigation after a regular paper service.

“I’m really proud of our deputy,” he said. “He did the right thing and it led to the largest marijuana grow operation that we’ve had at the sheriff’s department in the last five to 10 years.”

Giardino said deputies and Investigators spent several hours recovering evidence and plants from the home. He said the unoccupied home had five rooms, an attic and cellar which all contained evidence of the grow operation.

The sheriff said based on both current and used items in the building it was clear the operation had been going on for quite some time. He said over 20 pounds of ready to use marijuana was seized as well as other marijuana in various other stages from small plants, to drying buds and full drying plants.

“It was a substantial grow operation,” Giardino said. “The ready for use product probably had a street value of over $25,000. It’s difficult to provide an exact estimate though because the various grades and flavors that were recovered at the scene.”

Giardino said a search warrant was also conducted at Baker’s home but little evidence was found at his personal residence.

The release said Baker has been cooperative and is being represented by local attorney Michael Smrtic. District Attorney Chad Brown will represent the people in the case. 

Baker will be arraigned before the Mayfield Town Justice John Papa.

The sheriff’s office was assisted by the New York State Police and the NYSP Financial Crimes Unit and authorities said the investigation is continuing.