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FORGERY ARREST LEADS TO DRUG BUST

What started out as an investigation into $850 worth of stolen and forged checks, led state troopers to a small marijuana-growing operation in a Park Street home.

State police on Saturday said they first arrested Michael D. Winchell, 20, of Westfield and a 16-year-old Sherman girl on petit larceny and second-degree forgery charges late this week after learning that personal checks belonging to a relative of the girl were stolen, forged and cashed at area businesses.

Troopers then executed a search warrant at the Park Street home of John R. L. Ferguson, 20. Troopers and their K-9 unit uncovered approximately seven marijuana plants in the house, a small growing cabinet with lights, packaged marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Ferguson was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, growing cannabis -- a public health law violation -- petit larceny and possession of a forged instrument.

Winchell was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and being a fugitive on a warrant from the Erie County sheriff's office in Erie, Pa., for a probation violation. Winchell and the teen-ager are being held in the Chautauqua County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail. Ferguson was jailed in lieu of $1,000 bail.

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