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Marijuana plants found in unlicensed day care center in Buffalo home

A former client of an unlicensed North Buffalo day care center reported a strong smell of marijuana in the house where police found a sophisticated marijuana-growing operation in the attic.

Detectives from the narcotics units of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and Buffalo Police Department raided the Parkside Avenue address Sunday. They found nearly 300 marijuana plants – as well as an area that appeared to be designated for a day care center.

Robin Fortner, 42, was charged with a felony count of criminal possession of marijuana, unlawfully growing marijuana and acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17. Authorities said three of Fortner’s children, who were in the house at the time of the search, were placed in a relative’s care.

Fortner admitted operating an unlicensed facility, authorities said.

But the pot-growing operation was something to behold, even for veteran law enforcement officers, said Senior Detective Alan Rozansky, head of the sheriff’s narcotics unit.

“I’ve never seen something this elaborate,” he said, citing the electrical, irrigation, ventilation and nutritional systems. “She was very specific to say a lot of time was invested in this.”

Fortner reportedly told officers that she was selling the marijuana for $250 to $300 an ounce. It was distributed in old-fashioned canning jars, Rozansky said.

“I can tell you by the appearance and the smell, it appeared to be of high quality,” Rozansky said.

It’s believed the operation dates back a year or more. “You couldn’t have the elaborate growing system she had and do it overnight,” Rozansky said.

A client stopped utilizing the day care service because of the strong odor of marijuana in the air, Rozansky said.

The county and city police agencies worked together on the case after receiving the same information on it, he noted.

Fortner was being held Monday in the county Holding Center in lieu of $35,000 bail. She is due back in City Court Jan. 13.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com