New York Mom Accused of Running $3 Million Marijuana Operation Indicted

Suburban mom Andrea Sanderlin allegedly ran a $3 million drug operation.

ByABC News
June 18, 2013, 4:39 PM

June 18, 2013— -- A suburban mother of two accused of running a sophisticated $3 million marijuana enterprise out of a New York warehouse was slapped with a federal indictment today by prosecutors who said her operation was no different than that of Colombian druglords.

Andrea Sanderlin, 45, of Scarsdale, N.Y., was charged with manufacturing and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute it, and for maintaining a warehouse where marijuana was grown and processed, according to the United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of New York, which announced the charges this afternoon.

"There's really no difference whether you're a suburban mom growing marijuana in a warehouse in Queens, or a cartel member making cocaine in the jungles of Colombia -- manufacturing and distributing illegal narcotics comes at a hefty price when you are caught by law enforcement," said James Hayes, special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's office of investigations in New York.

Sanderlin was arrested on May 20 after authorities raided a Queens warehouse, where they found $3 million worth of pot, including close to 3,000 plants, according to Brian Crowell, Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge of the investigation.

Crowell called the setup a "highly sophisticated indoor marijuana grow operation."

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After her arrest, Sanderlin drew comparisons with Nancy Botwin, the maternal drug dealer played by Mary-Louise Parker on the Showtime series "Weeds."

"Sanderlin could have focused her talents on building a legitimate business enterprise to support her family and serve as a role model for her children," United States attorney Loretta Lynch said today.

"Instead, she allegedly chose to inhabit the shadowy underworld of large-scale drug dealers, using drug proceeds to maintain her family's facade of upper-middle-class stability," Lynch said.

Sanderlin's attorney, Joel Winograd, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Anthony Flores, who lives across the street from the Queens warehouse, told ABC News earlier this month that he had met Sanderlin a number of times.

"She introduced herself one day. 'Yeah, we're manufacturing baby furniture,'" Flores said she told him of her line of work.

Flores said Sanderlin would often ask him to move his car so she could park her 2010 Mercedes SUV in front of the warehouse.

"She's a very attractive young lady," he said. "I didn't think anything of it. She said her store was on Fifth Avenue."

Flores said he was outside his home May 20 when Sanderlin slowly drove past the warehouse, possibly noticing the undercover police vehicles parked in the area.

"Then all the guys came out," he said. "It was just like, get down, open the door. It was nuts."

Flores said Sanderlin didn't want to get out of her car at first, and it took law enforcement 10 minutes to take her into custody. Sanderlin was then handcuffed and brought inside the warehouse where, DEA Special Agent David Lee said, "agents discovered two separate rooms constructed within the warehouse designed to grow marijuana.

"Each room contained state-of-the-art lighting, irrigation and ventilation systems to facilitate growing the marijuana," Lee said.

It's unclear how long she'd been running the alleged operation, but she registered the name Fantastic Enterprises in July 2007, officials said.

If convicted, Sanderlin could face a minimum of 10 years in prison and $10 million in fines.

ABC News' Josh Haskell contributed to this story.