Two anonymous tips led to marijuana bust

Local News

Evidence found in a greenhouse suggests that Winnebago Mayor Scott Robertson and his son may have been involved in a marijuana growing operation that netted “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in profits.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Faribault County District Court on Friday, Feb. 9, agents of the South Central Drug Investigation Unit (SCDIU) and sheriffs deputies executed a search warrant on Feb. 8 and found 185 plants growing in two greenhouses on rural Winnebago property owned by Jacob Jon Robertson.

Labels on the plants were consistent with known cannabis seeds/plants with reported THC concentration of approximately 30 percent, says the complaint.

The plants were growing in greenhouses where Scott and Jacob Robertson were licensed to legally operate a hemp growing business in 2023.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Scott Robertson’s license to cultivate hemp expired at the end of last year and the Robertsons had not registered a hemp crop since 2021.

In one of the greenhouses, SCDIU agent and county deputy Briar Bonin found a notebook detailing rows and strains of plants.

The complaint says the notebook appeared to contain financial transaction information with dates as recent as Jan. 8, 2024, and partner profit splits with shares of $120,000 for a total profit distribution of $360,000.

While searching the greenhouses, Bonin found documents showing that the legally operating hemp growing business had five partners, including the Robertsons.

Authorities then searched a building on Main Street that Scott Robertson owned and found 55 plants growing that were consistent in appearance with cannabis plants and producing flowers.

The plants were field tested and tested positive for marijuana, says the complaint, indicating a THC concentration in excess of 30 percent. Each plant was labeled with known cannabis seed and flower products that were not permitted to be grown in the state.

Also inside the Main Street building was a box of seeds addressed to Scott Robertson’s residence in town, says the complaint.

Inside the home, agents located documentation from a cannabis seed supplier that included pamphlets with seed prices and THC content of 29 to 32 percent.

The complaint says many of the seed strains and plant names in the pamphlets matched labels of plants in the Main Street building.

Both Robertsons were present when authorities searched the properties, according to the complaint, and told investigators they were the only parties who were in the buildings and cared for the plants.

Scott Robertson initially told authorities no plants were growing in the greenhouses, but later admitted he had planted 200.

The investigation began in January 2023 when Bonin received an anonymous tip that owners of greenhouses located at 18195 340th Ave., Winnebago, were cultivating a large number of cannabis plants.

State agriculture department officials confirmed the Robertsons had operated a licensed and regulated hemp cultivating operation. Although they had an active license last year, no hemp crop was registered as required under regulation guidelines.

Bonin asked agriculture department officials to perform a site inspection and test any plants that were reportedly growing. He was told a licensed party needed to be notified before inspections could be done.

According to the complaint, around the time the notice was provided, Bonin learned through witness information that the Robertsons had backed an enclosed trailer onto the property and used it to remove all of the plants in the greenhouses.

State officials inspected the property in February 2023, but did not find any crop growing.

Bonin again got an anonymous tip last month that the Robertsons were growing a large number of marijuana plants in the greenhouses.

During his investigation Bonin learned that Scott Robertson owned commercial property on Main Street.

Bonin also received a report last month from Chief Deputy Scott Adams that while visiting a business adjacent to Robertson’s building he could smell a strong odor of unburnt marijuana that appeared to be coming from his building.

Because growing marijuana indoors requires high power usage, Bonin issued a subpoena to BENCO Electric to review electrical usage records for the Robertsons’ properties. They revealed patterns of active cultivation of a large number of plants through January 2024.

On Feb. 7, Bonin observed a strong smell of unburnt marijuana near the Main Street building, which has windows that are covered to prevent light coming in or out. He also saw Jacob Robertson enter the building for a short time before leaving and driving to the office of the greenhouses.

Any product derived from plants containing more than 30 percent THC is considered cannabis under state law and is illegal for sale until licensing by the Office of Cannabis Management is in place. Minnesota allows up to eight plants to be grown legally at home as long as no more than four are flowering.

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