Cops find 90 pot plants in Athol house

1 man arrested

ATHOL — Police serving an arrest warrant found more than they bargained for in an Allen Street house.

They didn’t find their man, but they did find a “rather sophisticated” marijuana cultivation operation, and arrested the homeowner, Chief Timothy Anderson said Thursday.

“It was being grown hydroponically, with computer-operated equipment to give it the right amount of water, CO2, light and so on,” Anderson explained.

Inside the residence were 90 pot plants, with a street value estimated at more than $40,000, said Anderson.

Joseph R. Cuticchia, 48, was arrested on charges of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, illegal possession of steroids, illegal possession of oxycodone (an opium-derived painkiller) and violation of a drug-free school zone.

The house sits on the same block as the Riverbend Elementary School, at 174 Allen St.

Though Cuticchia was arrested, police were there for his son by the same name, according to Anderson.

Police sought the 21-year-old Joseph Cuticchia on a warrant for being a fugitive from justice on charges of possession of a Class B substance with intent to distribute, and possession of a Class D substance with intent to distribute.

When they arrived at the duplex, just two blocks from Main Street, an Athol officer and a trooper with the state police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section did not find their man.

They did, however, find 90 marijuana plants growing inside the house while they checked room to room for their suspect early Wednesday morning, according to a statement from Athol Police.

The officer and trooper backed out, and called in reinforcements. Later, while police searched the house, the elder Cuticchia returned home, according to police.

By 3 p.m., they were joined by Athol’s narcotics agent, and members of the Northwestern District Anti-Crime Task Force, with a search warrant in hand.

They found that one unit in the side-by-side duplex was being used solely for a high-tech marijuana growing operation, said Anderson.

Though police have yet to determine the value of the setup, Anderson said it had easily cost several thousand dollars.

Anderson said the grower had yet to realize a return on the investment.

“We interrupted his harvest plans,” said the chief.

A total of 90 plants, 40 full-grown and 50 seedlings, were seized, though none had been picked, dried or packaged yet, according to Anderson.

Also found were an undisclosed quantity of pills, including steroids and the opiate painkiller oxycodone, for which police said Cuticchia did not have a prescription.

Anderson was released on $5,040 bail, and will be arraigned at a later date in Orange District Court.

A conviction for violating school zone drug laws carries a minimum sentence of two years in county jail, and a maximum of 15 years in state prison. Fines of $1,000 to $10,000 may also be assessed in addition to incarceration.

David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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