Mounting Debts Pushed Big Piney Tomato Farmer To Grow, Sell Pot
A Big Piney man told a federal judge Thursday that mounting debts put pressure on him to go into the business of growing marijuana.
Stewart Doty, 61, pleaded guilty to growing and distributing between 40 and 60 kilos (about 88 pounds to 132 pounds) of marijuana and to money laundering during a hearing before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl.
In exchange for Doty's plea, his attorney Ian Sandefer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Sprecher recommended dismissing one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and a sentence of between two years and two-and-a-half years in prison.
Doty also must forfeit $63,117 law enforcement agents seized when they searched his property.
During his plea, he told Skavdahl that his farming business had been declining and debts were mounting, so he converted about a third of his tomato greenhouse to growing marijuana.
Doty said he knew it was illegal, but he didn't realize the severity of the crime. He also knew that he was concealing the proceeds of his business -- money laundering -- when he deposited $35,020 in a bank in Colorado.
Skavdahl said that he is not a party to the plea agreement and will need to see the presentence report before handing down a sentence
The judge added that Doty has been cooperative and has adhered to the terms of his bond, and will remain free on bond until his sentencing on Nov. 27.
The case began Aug. 25, 2017, when agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Sublette County Sheriff's Office and other agencies executed a search warrant at Doty's business Wyoming Tomatoes, LLC, or Wyomatoes.
They found and seized about 50 pounds of suspected marijuana and equipment used to dry, package and weigh the plant, according to a criminal complaint dated May 31.
When law enforcement officers were searching his property, Doty arrived and admitted he had been growing marijuana in one of the greenhouses and distributing it outside Wyoming. He said his last grow began in January 2017.
Doty also showed officers where he had about 300 dried marijuana stalks and root balls.
When asked where he had been, Doty told a sheriff's deputy that information would incriminate him. The detective obtained another search warrant, searched Doty's van and seized $63,117 in two grocery bags.
The money laundering count alleges Doty did the same thing -- disguising the nature and source of the proceeds -- by depositing $35,020 in an account in a bank on Aug. 1, 2017. The indictment did not state where that bank is located.