- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

A D.C. man arrested in one of the area’s largest marijuana busts in recent history was ordered held yesterday on a $125,000 bond in Montgomery County.

Police said Charles Medard Duquette, 49, had turned all three floors of a house in Silver Spring into a marijuana farm. Drug-related items were also found in two other residences.

With “this size and this sophistication, in terms of sheer volume, it’s a very rare case,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler. “There wasn’t a stitch of clothing or bedding or any indication of anyone living in the house.”

Mr. Duquette turned himself in after investigators executed a search warrant Jan. 13 at a house he owns in the 10000 block of Gardner Avenue in Silver Spring.

Police seized from the house 407 marijuana plants, 38 pounds of loose and ground marijuana, high-intensity lights and hydroponic-growing equipment, charging documents stated. Police said they also seized documents and about a quart of hash oil.

Mr. Duquette, of the 3900 block of Cathedral Avenue Northwest, has been charged with six counts of possessing and distributing a controlled substance.

He appeared yesterday on closed-circuit television in Montgomery County District Court for a bond review, which was continued until Monday so defense counsel could have more time to review the case.

Investigators executed search warrants at two other residences they said Mr. Duquette owns. At his Cathedral Avenue apartment, they said they found a pound of marijuana, documents and more than $85,000 in cash. At a house in the 3300 block of Cool Spring Road in Hyattsville, they seized more lamps, growing equipment and marijuana from a two-car garage that had been converted to a greenhouse. No plants were being grown there.

There was about $30,000 worth of growing equipment between Mr. Duquette’s residence and the Hyattsville house, police said.

Lucille Baur, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department, which investigated the case along with D.C. and Prince George’s County police, said officers are investigating whether other persons are connected to Mr. Duquette’s operation.

She said police acted on a tip.

“We do from time to time get tips about marijuana-growing operations within the county,” Miss Baur said. “Typically, they are much smaller operations.”

In 2000, county police acted on a tip and called in a state police helicopter to fly over a house and scan it using thermal-image technology.

Police detected an unusual amount of heat inside the house, and county police later found 99 marijuana plants in two rooms.

Miss Baur said police did not use thermal imaging at Mr. Duquette’s homes and they rarely use the technology in such a way because it could harm the case.

“There are defense attorneys who try to develop cases against its use,” she said.

Five of the charges against Mr. Duquette, who does not have a criminal record, carry penalties of five years in prison along with various fines.

He also faces a charge of manufacturing the marijuana within 1,000 feet of school property because McKenney Hills Learning Center, an alternative high school, is near the house in Silver Spring. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Mr. Duquette’s preliminary hearing was scheduled for Feb. 17. Prosecutors said he likely would not post bond over the weekend and that other jurisdictions are looking into prosecuting him.

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