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Tampa man is guilty in pot house case

Despite reservations about some witnesses, a federal jury convicts him of trying to create indoor marijuana farms.

By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published August 24, 2006

TAMPA - After deliberating for nearly four hours, a federal jury found a Tampa businessman guilty of conspiracy for his role in a plan to create indoor marijuana farms in some of Tampa Bay's nicest neighborhoods.

Herbert Ferrell Jr., 54, faces a minimum of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Moody on Dec. 7.

Ferrell showed no emotion as the guilty verdict was read. His attorney, Joseph Bodiford, said his client was very disappointed by the jury's decision.

"He's always felt 100 percent like he has been set up, from the day I met him to this morning as we were waiting for the verdict in my office," Bodiford said.

Ferrell was one of 11 people, mostly from Tampa, charged on a federal indictment in December with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants.

Drug enforcement agents used undercover informants to get inside information about the indoor farms in at least 10 purchased and rented houses and apartments in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Porcelli said the defendants picked large houses in nice neighborhoods to avoid suspicion.

The others have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government.

The testimony of several of those defendants gave jurors pause, according to jury foreman Patrick Healey, 37.

He described them as "colorful" and said their credibility was questionable.

Healey said he also had doubts about the government's key witness, a DEA confidential informant named Harvey "Duke" Faglier.

Faglier was sent to Tampa under the guise of learning the marijuana growing business from Ferrell and his associates. He told Ferrell he planned to take the knowledge to the Atlanta area, where he would franchise their business.

Faglier, a professional musician, has tattoos covering both arms and a dollar sign inked on the palm of his hand.

"What a treat he was," Healey said sarcastically. "I hope he's in some other state."

But in the end, jurors couldn't overlook the hours and hours of tape Faglier created, Healey said. On the tapes, Ferrell can be heard discussing minute details of the marijuana growing business, from where to buy supplies to the amount of money he had invested.

Ferrell testified during the trial that Faglier coerced him into going along with the plan. He said Faglier talked about killing people and was physically intimidating.

Porcelli told Judge Moody the tapes and the jury's verdict indicate Ferrell lied during his testimony. In light of that, Porcelli asked Moody to put Ferrell in jail until his sentencing hearing.

Bodiford said Ferrell has a 6-year-old daughter and did not pose a flight risk.

Moody agreed to allow Ferrell to remain free on $50,000 bail until he is sentenced. Bodiford said Ferrell plans to appeal.

Carrie Weimar can be reached at cweimar@sptimes.com or 813 226-3416.

[Last modified August 24, 2006, 01:17:42]


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