On the morning of July 21, 2020, more than a dozen police vehicles converged on Narrow Gauge Distributors, a medical marijuana cultivation business housed in a former shoe factory on High Street in Farmington.
By noon, investigators were tossing large marijuana plants pulled from the building into the back of a shipping container and hoisting boxes of evidence into a U-Haul truck. State and federal agents also were busy searching for and seizing marijuana, cash and firearms from other marijuana facilities and homes in western Maine.
For more than a year, federal authorities remained tight-lipped about why they had raided the buildings and what exactly they were investigating.
But recently unsealed court documents outline what they describe as a far-reaching and elaborate conspiracy aided by law enforcement to grow and distribute marijuana in violation of Maine’s medical marijuana laws.
The documents paint a detailed picture of a complex criminal operation allegedly led by a man named Lucas Sirois of Farmington that, according to federal investigators, benefited from the help and protection of four law enforcement officers, a Rangeley selectman and an assistant district attorney, among others. A dozen people, including Sirois’ father and estranged wife, are accused of having a hand in marijuana distribution and money laundering.
Two of the officers were promised partial ownership of Sirois’ business and given company cars for helping with its operation, running license plates and picking up marijuana from another location, according to court documents. A witness told investigators that the men would sometimes show up at the cultivation site in uniform and hide when other officers pulled into the shoe factory’s parking lot.
The operation’s primary financier, 69-year-old Randal Cousineau of Farmington, was charged separately and pleaded guilty in federal court on Oct. 27 to conspiring to possess and distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and 1,000 marijuana plants. Cousineau made hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit through the illegal sale of marijuana in Maine and elsewhere, according to court documents. As part of a plea deal, he agreed to serve a maximum of just over five years in prison and forfeit nearly $650,000 in illegal drug proceeds. His sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
The alleged scheme was outlined in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor on the same day Cousineau pleaded guilty. It charges the 12 defendants with a range of offenses, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. All but one were indicted last week by a federal grand jury.
Sirois, who has been a prominent figure in the medical marijuana community and had applied for three of eight dispensary licenses issued when Maine first began allowing dispensaries in 2010, structured his operations to appear as though they complied with the state’s medical marijuana rules, the complaint alleges. But investigators say he regularly sold bulk marijuana on the illicit market in a scheme that netted him and his co-conspirators more than $13 million in six years.
In 2018-19, the complaint alleges, Sirois moved $1 million worth of marijuana for out-of-state distribution using the services of co-defendant Brandon Dagnese, 27, of Scarborough, a convicted felon who was ineligible to hold a caregiver card in Maine.
Timothy Parlatore, the New York-based attorney for Lucas Sirois, said his client has operated a legal and licensed medical marijuana business for years and did not commit the crimes of which he’s accused. The government’s case, he said, relies largely on the word of a person Sirois fired for committing a crime.
“A lot of this is her trying to grind an axe against Luke because she was upset she was fired,” Parlatore said.
Parlatore said Sirois will plead not guilty at his upcoming arraignment. He said he plans to file a preliminary injunction to stop Sirois’ prosecution because he believes prosecutors violated the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to prosecute conduct that is in compliance with state medical cannabis laws.
“Luke is a hardworking citizen who saw an opportunity when Maine legalized this particular industry. He has created jobs, he has helped the economy,” Parlatore said. “He is doing good work for the community, which is what we want citizens to do. He is still open for business, and we expect when this case is over he will continue to work his business. Anything other than dismissal will only hurt the citizens of Maine and the people that he employs.”
Federal authorities characterize his work differently. They say Sirois laundered money from drug sales “through a complex corporate structure,” lied to financial institutions about the source of his money, filed false tax returns and hired sheriff’s deputies to help gain access to confidential law enforcement records.
Two of those deputies, Bradley Scovil, 33, of Rangeley and Derrick Doucette, 29, of Jay, who have since left their jobs, began working for Sirois while they were still employed by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. They were rewarded with shares of the business and new SUVs, federal prosecutors said.
Later, Sirois allegedly got the two deputies to use their network of active law enforcement officials to obtain information about the ongoing federal investigation into his criminal activity, the complaint said. Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Kayla Alves, 36, of Farmington, allegedly tipped off Scovil about the federal investigation. Wilton police officer Kevin Lemay, 33, of Farmington, and James McLamb, 29, of Auburn, then an Oxford County deputy, used government databases to warn Scovil and Doucette that they were under investigation, the complaint said.
Sirois’ estranged wife, Alisa Sirois, 43, of Kingfield; his father, 68-year-old Robert Sirois of Farmington, and Ryan Nezol, 38, of Farmington, are accused of engaging in illegal drug trafficking with Sirois. Sirois and his tax preparer, Kenneth Allen, 48, of Farmington, filed false income tax returns to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and avoid taxes, according to the complaint.
David Burgess, 53, who at the time was a Rangeley selectman, is accused of accepting tens of thousands in cash and investments in his internet company from Sirois in exchange for helping with the marijuana business and advocating for an ordinance Sirois had crafted that would have loosened local medical marijuana rules to Sirois’ benefit.
A federal grand jury on Nov. 9 indicted 11 of the 12 defendants charged in the scheme. Alves, who is charged by complaint with tampering with proceedings and documents, was not indicted. Her case was continued after both sides requested an additional 60 days to continue resolution discussions that were underway before an indictment was sought.
Also indicted were three businesses – Lakemont LLC, Sandy River LLC and Spruce Valley LLC – on single counts of maintaining a drug-involved place. Lakemont LLC and Sandy River LLC were controlled by Sirois and Cousineau, while Spruce Valley LLC belonged to Sirois and an unnamed co-conspirator, according to court documents.
The 12 defendants have made initial appearances in federal court. All but Sirois were released on personal recognizance bonds. Sirois is out on a $500,000 secured bond.
INSIDE THE SHOE SHOP
Sirois had been involved in the medical marijuana industry in Maine for at least a decade before federal agents showed up at his main cultivation site last year. His business caught the attention of the DEA and IRS by August 2018, though court documents do not indicate what prompted the investigation.
In the affidavit filed in federal court, FBI Special Agent James Hendry outlines how investigators pieced together details of the operation Sirois allegedly ran for more than four years while appearing to comply with Maine’s regulations.
Sirois was licensed by the Office of Marijuana Policy to operate a single marijuana cultivation site in Farmington, but in reality was growing marijuana at multiple locations, including a repurposed toy factory in Avon – in amounts that far exceeded what is allowed under Maine law, according to Hendry. At the same time, Hendry wrote, Sirois and his co-conspirators funneled cash from the sales through a web of shell companies and laundered money through real estate, luxury vehicles and corporate ventures.
At the flagship cultivation location in Farmington, the former shoe factory known as the Shoe Shop, Sirois allegedly ran a prohibited collective. His operation was growing marijuana to sell, but he paid employees as if they were individual caregivers, growing what they sold on their own to him, the affidavit said.
Inside the Shoe Shop, employees worked in eight grow rooms, producing more than 600 pounds of marijuana over the 11-month period that a former employee interviewed by investigators worked there, the affidavit said. Sirois had external cameras and a security system installed to detect the arrival of law enforcement and give unlicensed employees – including his father, Robert Sirois, a convicted drug felon paid $1,200 weekly to be the shop’s custodian – time to flee the facility, Hendry wrote.
Sirois had hired Burgess, the former Rangeley selectman, to “fix problems,” and he showed up each week with a bag of cash to pay Shoe Shop employees, the former employee told investigators. Sirois also was paying Burgess to push for passage of the referendum in Rangeley, at one point telling him to “load up a bus” with 50 people to go vote, the affidavit said. That referendum was ultimately rejected by voters.
At one point, a bank employee told Burgess his accounts would be closed if he kept depositing cash that smelled like marijuana, the affidavit said.
The affidavit does not say how Sirois allegedly recruited law enforcement to work for him. But by the middle of 2019, Scovil and Doucette, the Franklin County sheriff’s deputies, were frequent visitors to the Shoe Shop. At times, they’d show up in uniform at the invitation of Sirois, carrying their service weapons, the affidavit said. From September to November, they had keys to the building and a large office inside. Scovil allegedly would run the license plates of cars parked outside to help Sirois better understand who was working for him. Doucette is accused of picking up 12 pounds of marijuana from a Bridgton dispensary and delivering it to the Shoe Shop.
When other law enforcement officers pulled into the parking lot, Scovil and Doucette would “hit the ground” to avoid being seen by their peers, Hendry wrote.
The former Shoe Shop employee told an FBI agent that Scovil was in the shop one day when four people, each carrying a visible firearm, arrived in a truck with Pennsylvania plates. They loaded 40 to 50 pounds of marijuana into duffle bags and put them in the truck. When a Farmington police cruiser parked outside, Scovil created a courier card for the people in the truck to “legitimize” the transportation of marijuana if they got pulled over, the affidavit said. In Maine, a trip ticket form is required anytime authorized people transport marijuana or marijuana products.
Scovil and Doucette resigned from the sheriff’s office that November. The month before, Sirois bought each man a Ford Explorer, according to the affidavit. And around that time, they became partners in Narrow Gauge Distributors, each receiving 25 percent interest, according to the affidavit.
But their departure from the sheriff’s office did not stop them from leveraging their connections in law enforcement to help the operation, Hendry wrote.
INVESTIGATION HEATS UP
By spring 2020, it appeared that Sirois, Scovil and Doucette suspected they were being watched by law enforcement, but they weren’t sure which agency or why. They had noticed cars following them, and a camera set up near Scovil’s driveway recorded a truck he suspected was driven by a law enforcement agent, Hendry wrote.
As the investigation continued and agents began monitoring Sirois’ cell phone, Scovil and Doucette were allegedly reaching out to friends in law enforcement to try to find out if they were being investigated and who was following them.
Investigators say Scovil reached out to Lemay, a Wilton police officer, in June and asked him to look up the license plate of the truck his security camera had picked up in a law enforcement database. When it came back as “not on file,” indicating it belonged to law enforcement, Lemay called an agent at the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to see if the truck belonged to the agency, according to the affidavit.
Scovil and Doucette gave Lemay gifts of CBD lotion and offered to sponsor Lemay at a mixed martial arts fight, Hendry wrote in the affidavit. Lemay currently is on administrative leave from his job in Wilton.
Investigators say Doucette reached out to McLamb, who was then a deputy with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, and had him run license plate numbers that Doucette provided. Messages reviewed by Hendry showed Doucette offered to help set McLamb up with a marijuana growing operation, the affidavit said.
That spring and summer, Scovil allegedly talked with Alves, who was his neighbor and an assistant district attorney, about his new job in the marijuana business. Scovil asked Alves if he was being investigated, but she initially told him she didn’t know, Hendry wrote. Alves later tipped off Scovil to the existence of the federal investigation, according to federal prosecutors.
Investigators say McLamb, Lemay and Alves all deleted text messages to distance themselves from the operation.
McLamb recently was fired from his job as Dixfield town manager for his alleged involvement in the case. His attorney, Michael Turndorf, said McLamb “should not be judged at this hour based on a single-sided, unchallenged allegation.”
“At this moment, there is only one side of the story and that’s the government side,” he said. “There is always a separate side.”
Attorneys representing Scovil, Doucette and Lemay did not respond to interview requests.
Walter McKee, the attorney for Alves, said his client did not commit a crime.
“It is disappointing to see her dragged into all of this. She received all of nothing for the non-criminal things she did here. She is a respected prosecutor, a U.S. Army veteran who deployed to Iraq, and put herself through college and law school with three children. She is really an amazing individual. Let me tell you this will be no small fight,” McKee wrote in an email to the Sun Journal.
After Alves allegedly told Scovil about the investigation on July 8, he called Sirois to tell him they were being followed by federal agents and to talk about how to change what they were doing to avoid arrest and prosecution by federal authorities, according to a transcript of the call included in the affidavit.
“But … so I just – we gotta stay on the down-low and only do legit deals. And we gotta – I think we gotta spend the time this week and next week and really get our (expletive) together, our licenses figured out. Because the last thing we want them to do, especially if it’s the feds, is to kick this (expletive) door out front and take down every plant,” Scovil told Sirois, according to the affidavit.
Thirteen days later, federal authorities raided the Shoe Shop and seized $29,500 in cash, 469 kilograms of processed marijuana and 1,805 marijuana plants.