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Pot raid nets two suspects, 281 plants

The Niagara County Drug Task Force seized hundreds of marijuana plants and a large quantity of cocaine Tuesday evening when officers raided a large marijuana-growing operation in an apartment building on Pine Street.

Two men were arrested at the scene, task force members said Wednesday.

Investigators said they confiscated 281 marijuana plants that were growing throughout the lower apartment at 444 Pine St., as well as prescription medication, scales and other drug paraphernalia just after 6 p.m.

William H. Chapple III, 44, of the Pine Street apartment, was charged with second-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a felony, and unlawfully growing cannabis. The investigation is continuing, and he and others could face additional charges, Task Force Chief Mark W. Driess told The Buffalo News.

Chapple was arraigned in City Court and remained in the Niagara County Jail on Wednesday after not posting $2,500 bail.

Also charged at the scene was Jeffrey M. Tretter, 19, of Eddy Drive, North Tonawanda. He was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and was released from the county jail after posting $10,000 bail.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for Tretter's vehicle after raiding Chapple's apartment and reported finding a half-ounce of cocaine, with a street value of about $700. Investigators said they also seized an undisclosed amount of cash and drug paraphernalia.

Driess called Chapple's apartment a large marijuana-growing operation, especially for a residential area. He said the value of one mature plant could be $1,000. The 281 plants confiscated varied in size, he said, and some were still seedlings.

"He had plants all over the place, in the living room, the basement, closets, extra bedrooms, with artificial lights and hydroponics. It was a mess," Driess said.

Driess said that the growing operation also posed a hazard to other residents of the building, an older Lockport home that had been converted into apartments.

"These are not electricians," he said. "This is a health hazard with exposed wires all over the place. [Chapple] placed other residents in danger with his illegal and covert operation."

Neighborhood complaints led to a one-year investigation of the growing operation by Investigators Scott V. Barnes and Kevin P. Newman, Driess said.