Pubdate: Thu, 22 May 2014
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014, Barrie Examiner
Author: Cheryl Browne


New Book Outlines in Detail Massive Grow-Op Bust in Barrie

A new book about the biggest marijuana grow-op bust in North American 
history hit the shelves this week.

And it all happened 10 years ago in Barrie.

Mark Coakley's Hidden Harvest (ECW Press) is a factual account of the 
estimated $30 million a year marijuana grow-op operated under the 
noses of police, residents and commuters who drove by the former 
Molson brewery daily.

Living in Hamilton, Coakley said he spent 10 years as a lawyer before 
he became a stay-at-home dad and author.

"I'm hoping people in Barrie would have a special place in their 
hearts for this story," Coakley said.

"As I wrote it, I discovered most people were cheering for the 
growers and hoped they would get off .

"Only a tiny minority thought badly of them."

In his book, Coakley writes about how Drago Dolic, Fred Freeman (not 
his real name), Jeff DaSilva and Robert Bleich met at the Molson 
property in 2001 to consider the huge warehouse - and the large 
former beer vats - for their future grow-op.

It took nine months and dozens of tradesmen from Quebec to build the 
concrete walls around the base that would hide some 21,000 plants per 
harvest (four a year) from the legitimate business owners in other 
parts of the building.

Coakley goes into great detail about growing marijuana, including the 
lighting, water filtration, mites and moulds.

He estimates that at the time, the pot sold for $2,500 per pound. At 
900 pounds per month, or 10,800 pounds a year, Coakley figures the 
Molson growers earned about $30 million annually.

Using photos from Ontario Provincial Police files and quotes from 
former mayor Rob Hamilton and now retired Barrie police chief Wayne 
Frechette, as well as former Barrie Examiner and Toronto area 
reporters who covered the story, he meticulously pulls together a 
play-by-play account of two years of the secret lives of the growers.

Each of the men were arrested - beginning with the Jan. 9, 2004 raid 
- - but most of whom have served their time and have since been 
released. However, a major player, Bob DeRosa, older brother of 
Fercan business and Molson building owner Vincent DeRosa, wasn't 
caught in the initial round-up.

Coakley follows up on his trials and tribulations in the second half 
of Hidden Harvest.

During the ensuing years, Vincent DeRosa has been through two court 
proceedings that completely exonerated him of any knowledge of the 
grow-op his brother helped run.

He sold his Barrie land for $ 4 million, but his lawyer, Brian 
Greenspan, said the federal government has deployed extensive 
delaying tactics, refusing to release those funds to DeRosa, who 
additionally holds another 50 developments across Ontario.

"Seldom, in my 40 years practising (law), have I experienced more 
abuse exercised by the Crowns in someone's affairs," Greenspan said.

Coakley cites a Toronto newspaper report stating that DeRosa hadn't 
paid the $648,000 municipal taxes on the building in 2003, yet city 
spokesman Scott LaMantia says that's not the case.

In an e-mail, LaMantia wrote, "The property taxes were paid in full 
at the time of the ownership change. The City of Barrie has nothing 
to do with the funds that are being held by other levels of government."

Coakley said he's now writing a book about the legalization of pot.

"There's been two Canadian commissions done and both times they found 
the government's over-reaction to marijuana has left people cheering 
for the other side on the war on drugs," Coakley said.

Ten years after the nation's largest drug bust, the mindset about 
marijuana has changed, he said.

"Now, the Chief Financial Officer of the Liberal Party, Chuck Rifici, 
has bought an abandoned chocolate factory ( Hershey's) near Smiths 
Falls, and he's going to turn it into a giant, legal grow-op where he 
expects to make $100 million a year."

The Molson land still sits empty.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom