Young couple charged with running marijuana growing operation in 3-car Governor's Island garage

GILFORD — Local police and agents from the New Hampshire Drug Task Force and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency converged on a Governor's Island home Thursday morning and arrested the two residents for two counts each of possession of drugs with intent to distribute.

Following their separate video appearances in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Janelle Noftle, 24, and Corey M. LaPlante, 28, of 47 Blueberry Hill Lane were each held on $30,000 cash-only bail.

According to Asst. N.H. Attorney General James Vara, Noftle and LaPlante allegedly had about 100 marijuana plants growing in a three-bay garage that contained what he described as a fairly sophisticated growing operation.

Inside the home, Vara said police allegedly found three to five pounds of hashish and a table that was equipped to serve as production and distribution center. He said they also found $33,000 in cash.

Vara said six guns — three handguns and three long guns — were found in the home. Two of them were allegedly loaded and he said the three pistols were located near the cash.

During his request for $50,000 cash bail, Vara said what police found was "not a run of the mill" growing operation. He said there were commercial grade fans, a watering system and a separate electrical box that LaPlante allegedly told police he installed.

The two had apparently been living in the home, which is rented, since 2010. Gilford assessing records obtained on-line list the owner as a trust whose primary trustee lives in Jackson, Wyoming.

During Noftle's bail argument, Atty. John Bresaw said she was not a flight risk and Vara's request for $50,000 cash-only bail was punitive — meaning it was tantamount to a punishment rather than to ensure her future appearance in court and/or to protect the public safety.

Bresaw also argued that Noftle has no prior arrest record, that she works in a local restaurant and is a graduate of Catholic University with a 4-year degree in Health and Wellness. He said she is also a certified personal trainer.

He also argued that marijuana and its derivative hashish are on the low end of the drug spectrum as compared to methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine and although he assured the court that he wasn't trying to minimize the seriousness of the charge, his client was none-the-less not a danger to the public.

"I'm not arguing if marijuana is appropriate or not," he said, asking Judge Jim Carroll that if he feels he must set some kind of cash bail, that it should be in the $1,000 to $5,000 range.

LaPlante's lawyer, Jared Bedrick made a similar argument for his client saying that if he were to be released on personal recognizance or low cash bail, that he would be unlikely to be able to reproduce the operation he was accused of running.

Bedrick said LaPlante's parents were in the court, that he was a graduate of Laconia Christian School, and had attended college. He said LaPlante is a welder by trade.

"This court should look at what could possibly happened when he's out," Bedrick said. "He has no convictions, no arrests, no nothing."

He said LaPlante agreed to live at his parents home in Gilford where no similar kind of alleged behavior would be allowed. He also said LaPlante saw the police and immediately put his hands up.

Vara agreed that both LaPlante and Noftle cooperated with police during the arrest.

Both defense attorneys argued separately that corporate surety should be an option for posting bail but Carroll said no and stipulated that a source of any cash bail must be disclosed.

Carroll said he agreed to a certain degree with Bresaw that marijuana possession is a "political football" but that LaPlante and Noftle are accused of running a commercial operation that is illegal both federally and locally.

He also said people can look sophisticated and cultured but sometimes their appearances can be "a Trojan horse."

Affidavits supplied by the N.H. Drug Task Force said little except that there had been a "cooperating individual" who allegedly told law enforcement  during the week of October 13 about the operation. Paperwork showed that Carroll signed a search warrant on October 16 and police raided the house the next morning at 9:15 a.m.

At 4:40 p.m. on Friday, LaPlante had posted bail and Noftle remained incarcerated in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Lt. Kris Kelley of the Gilford Police said only that the investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be forthcoming.