The Maine Office of Cannabis Policy is investigating a property in Turner after firefighters responding to a call at the residence came to believe that it was an illegal marijuana cultivation site.
The farmhouse – located at 2509 Auburn Road – is one of the more than 200 sites the Maine Wire had previously identified as Chinese-owned illicit marijuana grows.
The Lewiston newspaper reported Wednesday evening that firefighters responding to a call discovered that it wasn’t smoke coming from the building but steam.
A subsequent investigation led them to suspect that the property was growing marijuana illegally.
According to records reviewed by the Maine Wire, the property underwent significant upgrades to its electrical systems at the behest of Chaoming Lei, who at the time presented himself as the property owner.
That electrical work took place in July 2023.
Lei did not respond to a message left on his cellphone.
Earlier that summer, the property also had nearly $20,000 worth of tankless water heaters installed in the basement, according to a source in the HVAC industry who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak about customer business.
The unusually large number of water heaters drew suspicion from the installers, who were later denied access to the property to inspect them when a person other than the property owner wanted them activated, according to the source.
Although the true purpose of those tankless water heaters — as many as 10 units, per the source — is uncertain, veterans of Maine’s legal cannabis growing industry suggested that the burners could be used to produce CO2 gas for marijuana plants by burning propane.
“The Maine Wire told me about this property back in November as part of their ongoing investigation into illegal Chinese marijuana grows,” said Rep. Josh Morris (R-Turner).
“This property is especially dangerous and poses a risk to the safety of the public. Hopefully this is the wake up call for the administration to take this more seriously before a tragedy happens,” said Morris.
According to Androscoggin County Registry of Deed records, the property is owned by Liming Yu, a 27-year-old with previous addresses in Quincy, MA.
The relationship between Yu and Lei is unclear.
Also on Wednesday, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office arrested six arrests stemming from multiple other, unrelated raids conducting at Chinese-owned properties in Kennebec County and Lincoln County.
The following individuals were arrested during those raids:
- Weihuan Liu, 41, of Brooklyn, NY: Arrested during the raid of 91 Jefferson Road. More than 700 plants and 40 lbs of processed marijuana seized.
- Huan Ying Li, 57, formerly of NYC. Arrested during the raid of 333 North Howe Road, Whitefield. Nearly 30 pounds of processed marijuana seized. According to Lincoln County property records, Li purchased the property in November 2019.
- Zhen Zhong Chen, 45, the property owner of 170 Rockland Road, Jefferson, was arrested at his residence after the seizure of 820 plants.
- Ming Da Li, 41, of Brooklyn, NY, arrested at 754 Cooper Road, Chelsea, after the seizure of nearly 900 plants.
- Wan Ting Xiao, 50, of San Gabriel, Ca., arrested at 19 Abby Lane, Whitefield, after the seizure of 2,294 plants and 40 pounds of processed marijuana.
- Ding Zhan Liao, 49, of Brooklyn, NY., also arrested at 19 Abby Lane.
Note: The Maine Wire attempted last year to turn over a list of suspected illegal marijuana grows to both the Maine State Police and the Office of Cannabis Policy; however, both government agencies declined the information.
Additional note: The Turner Fire Department might want to also check out 57 Lower Road…