In a bizarre case that sounds like it was written by the creators of Weeds, a suburban mother was recently arrested for running a multimillion-dollar pot operation from a Queens warehouse
Andrea Sanderlin lived in the suburban town of Westchester, N.Y., and seemed normal by all accounts. She had two young daughters and a husband, living in a upper middle-class neighborhood in a Spanish style home.
But now, she is facing 10 years in prison for a "sophisticated operation to grow and process marijuana."
She has hired lawyer Joel Winograd, who has represented Steve Madden and Gambino mob soldier Michael Roccaforte. Winograd described her as a "full-time mother" with no criminal record. She is pleading not guilty to a federal charge of conspiring to manufacture and distribute 1,000 or more pot plants.
"She's never been in trouble before," he said, "It's rare that you get a woman accused of running a grow house."
Sanderlin, 45, was often seen taking her two daughters around town in her Mercedes SUV. She was just like all the other mothers in her neighborhood, at least on the outside.
"She seemed like every other mom," Scott Tarter said. Tarter was at the Twin Lakes Farm in Bronxville, where Sanderlin often rode horses and her daughter was in the riding academy. "I did find it odd that she hadn't been around for a couple of weeks."
Neighbors were shocked by her arrest, but realized there was one red flag they hadn't really paid attention to until now.
"It was obvious that [the father] wasn't a dad who put on a shirt and tie and took the 7:04 to the city," a neighbor said. They weren't sure what exactly the family did for a living.
Former father-in-law James Sanderlin, however, was not as surprised by her arrest. When told she was arrested, he said, "Isn't that something? She and my son married young and have been divorced for umpteen years. They had a son and my son raised him."
When asked what Sanderlin was like, he said, "I'd rather not say."
It seems Sanderlin's operation began falling apart after the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested five men in April for growing pot in two NYC warehouses.
They said their leader was 50-year-old Stephen Haberstroh, who happened to be a longtime friend of Sanderlin's.
Out of desperation to save himself from further charges, one of the five men admitted that he knew of a woman named "Andi" who had her own marijuana operation somewhere in the city.
That's when investigators began tracking Sanderlin, discovering she ran a business called Fantastic Enterprises from a warehouse in Queens.
Once they found out the warehouse used an "unusually high amount of electricity," a tell-tale sign of a pot growing operation, they knew they had who they were looking for.
Sanderlin was arrested on May 20 at the warehouse, where investigators discovered the pot operation with "state of the art lighting, irrigation and ventilation systems."
They seized around 2,800 plants and "large quantities of dried marijuana."