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Marijuana seized from apartment

Arlington police say unit devoted to growing plants

Police say they found the entire first floor of this building in Arlington devoted to a marijuana-growing operation. They seized the plants and equipment in the residence. Police say they found the entire first floor of this building in Arlington devoted to a marijuana-growing operation. They seized the plants and equipment in the residence. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / September 3, 2011

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ARLINGTON- It wasn’t so much the amount of marijuana seized from the tenant’s apartment that amazed police.

“What was so out of the ordinary in this instance is that the residence was rented and used for the sole purpose of growing marijuana,’’ Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan said by phone yesterday. “It doesn’t appear the apartment was inhabited.’’

Jonathan Pore, a 23-year-old college student, set up a high-tech plant nursery inside the Cleveland Street address, authorities said. The apartment was lined with plastic and contained heat lamps, lights, and air-conditioning equipment apparently used to create the perfect climate to grow the illegal plant.

Based on a tip several months ago, police started watching the apartment, Ryan said. Pore was arrested Thursday night and yesterday was charged in Cambridge District Court, located in Medford, with possession with intent to distribute and a drug violation near a school. He was ordered held on a $50,000 cash bail pending an Oct. 3 pretrial hearing.

The nearly 50 pounds of marijuana, in the form of fresh plants and dried leaves that appeared ready for distribution, was everywhere throughout the first-floor residence. In all, it had a street value of more than $120,000. Three scales and other drug paraphernalia were found, as well as $6,330 in cash.

Benjamin Selmen, the defendant’s lawyer, entered a not-guilty plea on his client’s behalf, as Pore, wearing a white T-shirt, stood next to him with his hands cuffed in front of him.

Prosecutors say Pore has a history of marijuana offenses in New Hampshire, where he graduated from high school. He was convicted of possession but received a suspended sentence, said Assistant District Attorney Kate Hardigan.

“His out-of-state record is indicative of a pattern of escalation,’’ she told Judge Antoinette Leoney. “He is now cultivating marijuana.’’

Selmen characterized the offenses in New Hampshire as minor and argued for a $1,000 cash bail for his client. “He’s not being charged with trafficking here,’’ Selmen said in response to Hardigan’s request for a $50,000 bail.

After the arraignment, Pore’s stepfather, Kevin Neary, said Selman is a second-year student at Northern Essex Community College, majoring in computer science.

“He’s a good kid. . . . He might have been doing it. Whatever the reasons for growing it, I don’t know,’’ Neary said.

Several residents on Cleveland Street who live not far from the yellow and dark-brown colored three-decker expressed shock at the level of the illegal activity so close to them, and on such a quiet, family-oriented street.

“No one knew anything about it. . . . It was a very big surprise,’ said Richard Wong, who has lived on the street for 27 years. “We just watched the cops carry all the stuff out.’’

Another resident said yesterday that he thought it was strange that the apartment windows had been covered with dark plastic.

“I’m always out here, watering the plants and stuff, and I hadn’t noticed anything strange,’’ said Steven Pappas, 49.

Pore was arrested four days after Nikita Yanakopulos, 34, a Medford pizzeria owner, was charged with marijuana trafficking. Police caught him in Everett, transporting 250 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of about $750,000, in the back of his truck, authorities said.

Brian R. Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com. Follow him on twitter at @globeballou