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Southern tier businessman convicted of a multimillion-dollar pot operation

A Village of Cattaraugus businessman was convicted by a Federal Court jury in Buffalo on Friday of charges connected to a massive marijuana-growing business – nearly eight years after he and his elderly father were arrested in their Mill Street factory.

Joseph Tigano III, 51, a prior felon in another state, was found guilty of manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, maintaining a premises for the manufacture of marijuana, conspiracy to manufacture and possess marijuana and being a previously convicted felon in possession of firearms.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas S. Duszkiewicz said Tigano faces a mandatory prison term of at least 20 years and a possible life term and a fine of up to $10 million when he appears before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford, the trial judge, at 3 p.m. Aug. 13.

The prosecutor said Tigano’s father, Joseph Tigano Sr., 77, is awaiting a sentencing date on similar charges.

The Tiganos were arrested during a raid on their factory at 30 Mill St. on July 8, 2008, following an investigation of the multimillion-dollar marijuana business. After the raid, federal agents described the business as one of the most highly sophisticated marijuana-growing operations in Western New York.

Duszkiewicz said the hydroponics operation covered the gamut, from growing and harvesting to packaging and distribution. Authorities seized 1,414 plants as well as 100 pounds of marijuana packaged for sale and valued at between $300,000 to $500,000.

Also seized were three firearms, $25,000 in cash, money orders, savings bonds, a 2007 Cadillac Escalade, 2005 Jeep Cherokee Limited and a 2007 Haulmark trailer, Duszkiewicz said.

The investigation was conducted by the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, State Police, Erie County Sheriff’s aviation unit and agents of the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.