Cops bust $1.5M pot farm in Douglas Manor home

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Brooklyn narcotics detectives raided a quiet house in Douglas Manor last week, shutting down a high-tech, high-potency marijuana farm and arresting two people for growing more than $1.5 million of pot in one of the city’s toniest neighborhoods, the Queens district attorney said.

Authorities in Brooklyn had the Douglas Manor house at 302 Forest Rd. under surveillance after receiving a tip about a house in Queens being used to grow a powerful strain of marijuana, the DA said. Douglas Manor, a landmarked area known for its expensive homes and quiet streets, is generally regarded as a peaceful neighborhood.

Queens DA Richard Brown joined forces with Brooklyn detectives and Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes to carry out Friday’s raid, which recovered 300 pounds of marijuana and 1,500 separate marijuana plants from the small, brown Tudor-style home. While Brooklyn authorities investigated the case, it is now being brought to the Queens district attorney to prosecute, a spokesman for Brown said.

Police arrested Robert Diaz, 34, of 240 Mulberry St. in Manhattan, and Vincent Sansone, 38, who lives at the Forest Road house, and charged them with criminal possession of marijuana, Brown’s office said. Diaz and Sansone could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the charges, the DA’s office said.

Diaz and Sansone were accused of using high-powered, overhead fluorescent lamps set up with timers and fertilizer-enriched soil to cultivate potent marijuana worth about $5,000 per pound, Brown’s office said. The windows of the house were shuttered and the heat was maintained at 80 degrees as part of the farming process during which the plants were grown in dirt-filled containers and watered manually, the DA said.

City Department of Finance records show the value of the house to be about $723,000, making the operation believed to be headquartered there more profitable than the home itself.

Brown said “the defendants are alleged to have thought that they would be able to hide in plain sight an illegal drug farming operation but, of course, they were mistaken.”

Neighbors voiced surprise after last week’s raid on their tiny street. The house sits on the corner of Forest Road and East Drive, on the eastern side of Douglas Manor.

“They were nice people,” one neighbor said. “You didn’t expect that that was happening.”

A spokesman from Brown’s office said the investigation revealed that Diaz, who did not live in the home, was allegedly part of the illicit drug operation.

Authorities said Sansone rented the Douglas Manor house from the owner. It was unclear how long Sansone had lived there, Clark said.

Sansone lived in a bedroom on the first floor of the home, Queens DA spokesman Patrick Clark said, while “virtually the rest of the home was given to the cultivation of marijuana.”

Clark said the home was equipped with an “excellent ventilation system because the smell [of the marijuana] didn’t waft through the neighborhood.”

NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said “the message for those who intend to grow, distribute or sell marijuana in any neighborhood of New York City is: we intend to find you, to stop you and to arrest you no matter where you try to hide.”

Clark said the owner of the home was not a suspect in the investigation and that Sansone supposedly rented the property for about $3,500 a month.

Little information about the owner of 302 Forest Rd. was available as of press time Tuesday. Spokesmen for the city Buildings Department and the Department of Finance said the owner was Jee Jean Chen, a.k.a. Hsiu Ying Chen, who has owned the house since 1984.

Chen could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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