Family-run plumbing business was front for illegal marijuana grow op in Massachusetts

Investigators seized thousands of plants from multiple locations

A family-run plumbing company in Central Massachusetts has been used as a “front” for a large-scale marijuana distribution and growing business, authorities said just days after $6 million in marijuana was seized at a Clinton warehouse associated with the case.

Federal complaints against Charles “Chuck” Laverty, his wife, Andrea Laverty, and their son, Thomas Laverty, were filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Worcester accusing the family of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, manufacture a controlled substance and to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

The family runs Chuck Laverty & Son, a plumbing and heating business located in Millbury.

Federal and local drug investigators executed search warrants on Thomas Laverty’s 843 Main St. residence in Clinton on Oct. 17 and seized more than 1,000 marijuana plants worth $6 million, according an affidavit filed by Robert Olsen, a special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Investigators also went to 5 Victoria Terrace in Millbury, the home of Chuck and Andrea Laverty and the location of the family business. That raid also took place on Oct. 17.

Agents seized a large amount of marijuana in the garage at the Victoria Terrace home, Olsen wrote. Some of the marijuana was packaged in bags for what authorities called “apparent distribution” and other marijuana was in various stage of drying and processing, or stored in plastic bins, the agent wrote in his affidavit.

A grow operation with lighting, cooling and watering equipment was found at the Millbury and Clinton locations, authorities said.

“Based on information developed during this investigation, I believe that Laverty & Son provide some legitimate plumbing services, but that Charles Laverty, Thomas Laverty, and Andrea Laverty primarily use their family business as a front for a large-scale, commercial marijuana cultivation and distribution operation,” Olsen wrote. “Vehicles, bank accounts, and premises associated with Laverty & Son have been frequently used to facilitate drug manufacturing, storage, and distribution.”

The Oct. 17 bust in Clinton netted 2,200 pounds of marijuana inside an 8,000-square-foot garage attached to a single-family home where Thomas Laverty lives, authorities said.

Thomas Laverty, 37, of Clinton, and Sean Matt, 29, of Worcester, were both arrested at the warehouse. Both men were charged in Clinton District Court on drug charges and held on $100,000 cash bail.

It is unclear when the Laverty family will appear in federal court.

No federal complaint was listed against Matt as of Monday.

The Clinton warehouse had air-circulating machines, irrigation systems, plant food, indoor plant lighting and roughly 1,029 marijuana plants, police said. Cash and vehicles were seized.

Andrea Laverty is listed as the president of Laverty & Son, according to state records. Chuck Laverty is listed as the owner/manager of the company with Thomas Laverty listed as a contact.

Rent for the 843 Main St. resident in Clinton has been paid for via checks from the company, Olsen states in his affidavit. Andrea Laverty signed several of the rent checks along with Chuck Laverty, investigators said.

Investigators believe the Clinton location was used to house the large-scale marijuana growing operation while the Millbury location was used for storage and distribution.

Authorities tracked what they call “significant cash deposits” into accounts owned by Thomas Laverty, Andrea Laverty and the company. The cash was used to make payments for private school tuition, and for a 2017 Subaru and a 2012 Dodge Challenger, the federal affidavit said.

Andrea Laverty had several large cash deposits in her bank account leading up to May 2017 and used $28,000 as a down payment on a 2017 Chevrolet Corvette, the DEA agent said.

Agents pulled National Grid records on both properties during the investigation. Authorities said they found abnormally high electrical usage at the Clinton warehouse. The kilowatts per hour used in May was 40,000 — a massive increase from the 1,600 KWh used by the previous tenant in May 2016, the affidavit said.

The November 2016 National Grid bill for the Clinton location was $7,200 and paid by check from a Laverty & Son account, Olsen said. Large amounts of electricity are commonly flagged by investigators because indoor marijuana grow houses require massive amounts of electricity to run the equipment.

Authorities conducted surveillance at the Clinton location this year and saw several vehicles registered to the three family members at the warehouse, Olsen said. Vehicles were seen leaving the Clinton location and drive to the Laverty home in Millbury, he added.

On Sept. 18, Olsen said he watched as a van registered to Andrea Laverty leave the warehouse in Clinton and drive to the Millbury home.

“I then observed two individuals carry a total of seven large buckets from the van and up the stairs towards the residence at 5 Victoria Terrace,” Olsen wrote. “Based on my training and experience, and information developed during this investigation, I believe that it was likely that these buckets contained marijuana.”

Information from MassLive.com