Smithtown Public Safety officers arrested a Kings Park man on Wednesday night for helping tend a marijuana plant farm inside a Commack water recharge basin.
Mark Kern, 44, is charged with criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree, a felony charge, after undercover town officers found him tending to more than 100 marijuana plants off Vanderbuilt Motor Parkway and Redleaf Lane in Commack at 10:22 p.m., according to Public Safety's Deputy Chief Kevin McPadden.
"Operation Green Thumb," a four-month long surveillance and investigation effort was set up by the Public Safety Department in conjunction with Suffolk County Police and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to McPadden, after town highway employees reported young marijuana plants in May.
"It’s quite amazing it wasn’t discovered by young adults, but it was a very secluded area," he said.
McPadden said video footage was captured showing at least two individuals, wearing headlamps, slipping through a hole in a fence into the water recharge basin at night carrying jugs of water and plant fertilizer to tend to the young marijuana plants. He estimated the farm to have 100 - 200 plants that averaged between 7 to 8-feet tall.
"It was well attended, terraced and notched out in the area that looked like a field you would see in Southeast Asia," McPadden said.
Public Safety officers waited until the plants matured before dressing in camoflauge and staking out at the water recharge basin on Wednesday night.
Kern and another individual were caught sneaking into the water recharge basin to tend the farm. Officers arrested Kern, while the other suspect fled on foot, according to McPadden.
Smithtown Public Safety and Suffolk County Police officers removed all the plants from the area 8 a.m. Thursday. The marijuana plants were sent to a Yaphank facility where the exact weight and street value of the marijuana will be determined.
McPadden said Operation Green Thumb is still ongoing and there is the possibility additional arrests will be made.
Kern is schedule to be arranged on a felony charges of criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree and two misdemeanor charges of criminal trespassing and resisting arrest on Thursday in Central Islip courts.