Andrea Sanderlin was described by friends and neighbours in the upmarket town of Scarsdale as a “soccer mom” who drove a Mercedes SUV and competed in horse riding competitions.
But the federal drug enforcement agency alleges that the 45-year-old was in charge of a “sophisticated operation to grow and process marijuana”, according to the criminal complaint.
The DEA began investigating Sanderlin after a man arrested in a separate drugs raid identified her as growing marijuana in Brooklyn or Queens. Investigators linked Sanderlin, who has two daughters aged 3 and 13, to a warehouse that was using “an unusually high amount of electricity”.
“The warehouse was filled with over $3m worth of hydroponic marijuana and the organization covertly produced 3,000 marijuana plants,” Brian Crowell, special agent in charge at the DEA, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Sanderlin was arrested after agents followed her to the warehouse. In a separate raid on her Scarsdale home authorities found books on how to grow marijuana and how to launder money, according to the DEA.
Sanderlin has pleaded not guilty to narcotics trafficking, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. She is awaiting a bond hearing.
The exposure of Sanderlin as an alleged marijuana kingpin came as a shock to friends and neighbours in Scarsdale, a wealthy suburb of Westchester just outside New York City.
Anthony Flores, a local friend, told CBS New York he thought Sanderlin was “a stereotypical soccer mom”.
“When I first met her she told me she was running a baby furniture operation,” Flores said. “[The arrest] blew my mind. Especially knowing her like interacting with her day to day. It’s just nuts. I would think not her of all people.”
The Smoking Gun, which broke the news of Sanderlin’s detention on Tuesday, said the accused was a regular at the Twin Lakes Farm horse riding academy in Bronxville and had competed in equestrian competitions.
A YouTube video titled “My 1st school show” and credited in numerous reports as having been posted by Sanderlin appeared to show her riding a chestnut horse around a large indoor enclosure.
Scott Tarter, who owns the Twin Lakes Farm, told CNN that he thought Sanderlin was in the interior design business.
“She was just like all the local moms here,” he said. “She wasn’t loud. I never saw her smoking or drinking or anything that would have made me believe this.”
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