An anonymous tip led to the confiscation of an estimated $8 million worth of marijuana from a Rome Township couple’s rural home.
Edwin and Linda Schmieding, both 60, remain in the Lenawee County Jail after bonds were set at $1.5 million for him and $1 million for her Tuesday afternoon in Lenawee County District Court. Both are charged with manufacturing more than 200 marijuana plants and with conspiracy. Edwin Schmieding also faces a felony firearm charge stemming from numerous handguns and long guns police seized from the home at 12501 Rome Road.
The couple are accused of growing more than 8,000 marijuana plants on their Rome Road property west of Hawkins Highway that had been a commercial flower farm. Doug Hartung, assistant Lenawee County prosecutor, said local officials are also talking with federal authorities because an operation of this size is far beyond personal use.
The raid was carried out by members of the Michigan State Police Office of Monroe Narcotics Investigation (OMNI) Team 3, which includes officers from some Lenawee County police departments. The Jackson Narcotics Enforcement Team also assisted.
OMNI officers and other law enforcement officials spent Monday night and much of Tuesday harvesting plants. Michigan State Police Lt. Steve Galbreath said the final count is 8,023 marijuana plants. They were in various stages of growth in several locations on the property.
Michigan State Police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said the plants ranged from seedlings to fully grown, 6-foot-tall stalks, leading officials to suspect a potential wider range for their investigation.
“This is probably the most extensive marijuana growing operation that I can remember in the Hillsdale and Lenawee area,” Adamczyk said. “This will put a crimp in some marketing somewhere.”
Calculating a potential one pound of marijuana per plant, officials estimated the street value of the bust to be more than $8 million. The price is $1,000 per pound on the street, Galbreath said.
The growing operation, which appears to have been going on for several years, included a greenhouse and several fields. Many of the plants were hidden among pine trees on the property, he said.
“This was well-hidden. It is a very rural environment,” Adamczyk said. “If you drove past it, you wouldn’t be able to see anything.”
Edwin and Linda Schmieding appeared distraught during a video arraignment from jail Tuesday afternoon. District Judge James E. Sheridan had to repeat several portions of the arraignment for them. Both said they are receiving Social Security disability and do not have money to hire their own attorneys. Public defenders were appointed.
“I don’t think either one of us are a great flight risk,” Edwin Schmieding said while Sheridan was setting bond.
He set bond at $500,000 per count. The couple face maximum 15-year prison terms and $10 million fines on the marijuana and conspiracy counts. Edwin Schmieding faces a mandatory two-year prison term if convicted of the felony firearm count.
Lenawee County Sheriff Jack Welsh said the investigation began with an anonymous tip to a detective, who alerted the drug enforcement team. OMNI officers went to the scene to begin the investigation and noticed the smell of marijuana. That was enough evidence to secure a search warrant, said Hartung.
When they continued to investigate, officers found nearly 1,000 plants in a greenhouse. The search turned up an extensive growing operation that included lights, a watering system and ventilation equipment.
State police Lt. Tim Gill said officers also confiscated several handguns which were in a locked safe along with about $2,500 in cash. The property is subject to forfeiture, Gill said.
The Schmiedings did not resist and did not have criminal records, said Adamczyk.
OMNI Team 3 is a multi-jurisdictional task force made up of officers from the state police, Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department, Raisin Township Police Department the Adrian Police Department.
Daily Telegram staff writer Dennis Pelham contributed to this report.