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Con Ed sues suspected Staten Island pot grower

silive.com

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.  — The key ingredient in a sophisticated, $1 million-a-year marijuana-growing operation that a Rosebank man allegedly ran out of his home wasn’t the seeds, the plants, or even water.

It was electricity. Lots of it.

And now, Consolidated Edison wants Keith Harrigan to fork over almost $275,000, which the utility contends he owes for power charges and late fees.

Con Edison has sued Harrigan, 48, in state Supreme Court, St. George, alleging he ran up a huge electric tab over more than five years and never paid for it.

Lighting systems used to spur hydroponic plant growth draw huge amounts of electricity — about 60 times that of an ordinary home, according to a study by scientist, Dr. Evan Mills.

“When a customer steals electricity, the hard-working customers, who are honest and pay their bills, are getting ripped off,” said Chris Olert, a Con Edison spokesman. “If we find customers stealing electricity, we prosecute and work closely with NYPD and the district attorneys. We attempt to recover the money.”

Officials said Harrigan had apparently tampered with the electrical meter.

On March 1, narcotics detectives raided the James Place home where, police said, Harrigan lives with his brother, Craig, 50, and Craig’s son, Marc, then 18. Cops found 316 marijuana plants in a second-floor garden and 60 seedlings in the basement, according to court papers.

“They had expensive, new equipment. They had a ventilation system. They were growing it hydroponically,” meaning without soil, one law enforcement told the Advance then. “They weren’t just chopping up crack.”

The source said the marijuana was likely distributed to other dealers.

“They were the grow house,” said the source. “I don’t think someone came in there for a dime bag.”

Authorities would only say that the NYPD’s narcotics department caught wind of the growing operation as part of an “ongoing narcotics investigation.”

Besides the pot, the raid netted a digital scale, drug records, police scanners and books and several magazines on marijuana growing, according to prosecutors. Detectives also found lighting fixtures, air filters, containers, thermometers, air pumps, timers, eco testers, electric converters and mini block planters, authorities allege.

District Attorney Daniel Donovan said then it was the largest pot bust on Staten Island he could recall since taking office in January 2004.

Con Edison records show the operation was running for at least five years, according to court papers. The electrical meter allegedly had been tampered with to prevent it from registering the amount of juice burned back to Jan. 26, 2006.

In all, Con Edison contends Keith Harrigan, as the owner of record, stiffed it of $147,483 worth of electricity.

Olert, the Con Edison spokesman, said the utility also seeks $127,341 in late fees and collection charges, for a total of $274,824.

The three Harrigans face criminal charges of first-degree marijuana possession, second-degree grand larceny, and theft of services.

The suspects have denied the allegations and their cases are pending in state Supreme Court, St. George.

Telephone attempts to reach Keith Harrigan were unsuccessful.

Philip Smallman, his Brooklyn-based lawyer, said he hasn’t seen the Con Edison lawsuit nor any documents to support the utility’s allegations.

“I’m looking for concrete substantiation of the basis of their claim, and once they provide that I’m happy to sit down with them to try to resolve it.” he said.

Regarding the criminal case, Smallman said he’s currently negotiating with the district attorney’s office.

“We’re hopeful of a global resolution, involving the matter in the criminal court as well as Con Edison,” said the lawyer.

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