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Scarsdale pot mom due in Queens court Thursday

June 6, 2013 5:18:48 AM PDT
She lived in a big house in a manicured suburb, took riding lessons on her $10,000 horse and drove a Mercedes. But Andrea Sanderlin, authorities say, wasn't like all the other moms in Scarsdale.

According to a federal complaint, she regularly took the Mercedes to a warehouse in Queens where she was raising thousands of marijuana plants worth millions of dollars in the drug trade. She is due in court on Thursday.

Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration found healthy, leafy plants of all sizes, some stacked on tiered shelves, plus fans, lights and hoses. The complaint called the arrangement "a sophisticated operation to grow and process marijuana."

It seemed a little like the TV series "Weeds," which chronicled a California woman's decision to grow marijuana to support her family.

But Sanderlin's arrest "really catches your attention" in Scarsdale, said neighbor Rena Schwartzbaum.

Scarsdale is a wealthy New York City suburb known for beautiful old homes and top-notch schools, and Schwartzbaum, a psychologist who works at home, described the surrounding blocks as "a lovely, quiet, family neighborhood."

On Wednesday, the loudest noise around Sanderlin's Mediterranean-style home came from workers pouring cement for an in-ground swimming pool a few houses down.

In the complaint, DEA Special Agent David Lee said an informant tipped agents that a woman from Scarsdale was operating a marijuana grow house in New York City. He identified Sanderlin from a photo, Lee said.

Agents then found that a Con Edison account linked to Sanderlin in Queens was using an "unusually high amount of electricity." The complaint said the power was being poured into lighting, irrigation and ventilation at the warehouse, which was listed under the name Fantastic Enterprises.

Agents tailed Sanderlin driving from Scarsdale to Queens and back and stopped her May 20, the complaint said. After getting a search warrant, they went into the warehouse and found more than 2,800 pot plants and large amounts of dried marijuana, DEA spokeswoman Erin Mulvey said Wednesday. She said the plants were worth $3 million on the street.

Sanderlin, 45, was charged with conspiring to raise and distribute the pot. She pleaded not guilty and was held without bail. Her lawyer, Joel Winograd, did not immediately return messages Wednesday.

If convicted, Sanderlin could be sentenced to 10 years in prison, though federal sentencing guidelines would likely produce a shorter term.

Neighbors said they believe Sanderlin is unmarried and has two daughters. At Twin Lakes Farm in Eastchester, a horse barn and riding academy a few miles from Scarsdale, owner Scott Tarter said Sanderlin and one daughter had taken lessons there.

Sanderlin, he said, came about three times a week from December to April, sometimes bringing her older daughter, and eventually bought her own horse.

"She was a beginning rider and he was a green horse," Tarter said. "It wasn't a great pairing." He later helped her sell the horse for about $10,000 and was helping her find another when he lost contact with her, around the time of her arrest.

Sanderlin's Facebook page includes video of her daughter riding.

"She was very nice, good with her daughters," Tarter said. "Didn't raise her voice. She was just like all the other moms."

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Associated Press researcher Monika Mathur contributed to this report.

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