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Indoor pot farming earns man prison

He begs for leniency, but gets 10 years for his role in a plot that operated from ritzy homes.

By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published January 31, 2007


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TAMPA - Convicted of creating indoor marijuana farms in some of Tampa Bay's nicest neighborhoods, Herbert Ferrell Jr. made one last plea for mercy Tuesday.

"I want to apologize to the court and especially to my family for everything I've done," Ferrell said at his sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court.

"Being separated from my 7-year-old daughter is just unthinkable and has cast my heart asunder in my soul," he said.

Ferrell then assured U.S. District Judge James Moody that he would never again violate the law. But since the charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison, Moody had little choice when imposing punishment.

He sentenced Ferrell to 10 years in a federal prison, plus five years of supervision upon release. Ferrell, the owner of a Tampa skin cancer detection company called Dermal Screenings Inc., covered his face with his hand as the sentence was read. After, he thanked his lawyer, Anne Borghetti, and hugged his tearful wife.

Ferrell was one of 11 people, mostly from Tampa, charged on a federal indictment in December with planting marijuana grow farms in at least 10 purchased and rented houses and apartments in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Authorities said the defendants picked upscale neighborhoods to avoid detection.

The other defendants pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government.

During the hearing, Borghetti asked Moody for leniency for her client, saying he wasn't a ringleader.

But Moody said her assertions were contradicted by tape recordings made by government informants that were played at trial. On the tapes, Ferrell could be heard discussing details of the marijuana growing business, from where to buy supplies to the amount of money he had invested.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Porcelli said he was offended by Ferrell's unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions.

At trial, Ferrell said he was intimidated by a confidential informant working for the Drug Enforcement Agency into participating in the grow house scheme. His claim wasn't supported by the undercover tapes.

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

[Last modified January 31, 2007, 01:35:59]


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