A 63-year-old man is facing two felonies for reportedly stealing electricity to illicitly grow marijuana plants in rural Bay County.
In July 2017, Consumer’s Energy received an anonymous tip that Earnest W. Deplanty was stealing power and growing pot at his home at 2449 E. Almeda Beach Road in Fraser Township. A Consumer’s investigator went to the house and found an unauthorized lock on its electrical box. On cutting the lock and looking inside the box, the employee found wiring had been tampered with in an apparent attempt to acquire electricity without being charged, court records show.
Deplanty was not home at the time of the employee’s inspection. On smelling the aroma of marijuana emanating from the house, the employee called police.
In the presence of a Michigan State Police trooper, the Consumer’s employee removed the house’s electrical meter, yet the structure visibly still had power.
“A telltale sign that electrical power is being stolen is when the power is still on after the meter has been removed,” the trooper wrote in a report, contained in court files.
As this was happening, Deplanty drove onto the property, then drove off without stopping. The trooper pulled him over a short ways away and Deplanty came back to his house.
Deplanty let the trooper and Consumer’s employee into his house, where they saw a room containing a marijuana grow operation. Deplanty told them he is a medical marijuana patient, although it appeared he was growing more plants than legally permissible.
The Consumer’s employee confirmed the purloined power was going to this room, court records show. Deplanty had been stealing power since about March 2014, court records indicate.
On Aug. 14, the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (or BAYANET) followed up by executing a search warrant on Deplanty’s house. Officers found 27 plants and about 723 grams — or 25.5 ounces — of usable pot.
According to the state’s Medical Marihuana Act, patients can have 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. Caregivers can grow up to 12 plants producing 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana for each of their five patients and themselves. If a caregiver is a patient and has five registered patients, he or she can grow 72 plants.
Deplanty told police that he wasn’t a caregiver and knew he was only to grow 12 plants. He said once the plants are mature, he gives two-thirds of them to his landlord, who lives in Florida, so he can reside at the house for free, court records show.
On Monday, Jan. 29, Deplanty appeared in Bay County District Court for arraignment on single counts of delivering or manufacturing marijuana and fraudulent use of a public utility more than $500. Both charges are punishable by up to four years’ incarceration.
Deplanty was freed on a personal recognizance bond. He is to appear for a preliminary examination at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13.