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4th St. Fire Exposed Pot Growing Operation, Police Say

Faulty wiring leading to marijuana incubator caused basement fire, police say. 2 men charged.

By Jack Tobias

City police and firefighters responded to a call Friday morning and found half of an E. Fourth Street double home filled with smoke.

They also found the apparent cause of the fire—faulty wiring from an indoor marijuana growing and sales operation in the basement of 1247 E. Fourth St., court records say.

Police have charged two men in connection with operating the marijuana "grow room" and causing the fire. They also suspect that two other men are involved.

In addition to three marijuana plants, loose marijuana and a heat lamp, electric generator and soil used in the growing process, police found $750 in cash and a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber handgun in the house, the records say.

One of those charged—Matthew Gregory Caldwell, 24—was on the front porch when authorities arrived. The second man charged—Cory Patrick McLaughlin, 22—was found in the basement. One of the two others not yet charged fled when authorities arrived.

Later at police headquarters, Caldwell waived his Miranda rights and admitted that he and his roommates—McLaughlin and the other two men—built and operated the marijuana "grow" and were selling marijuana from the house.

McLaughlin, meanwhile, was charged with threatening a fire captain by telling him to leave or he would "throw them out." He also was charged with trying to flush marijuana down a toilet.

A criminal complaint filed by city Det. Christopher Benton also says:
  • Authorities learned of the fire at 7:52 Friday morning when a resident of the other half of the double home called city 911. Two fire officers found the basement "grow room" and three shredded plants that later tested positive for marijuana lying on a bathroom floor next to a toilet.
  • While venting the smoke, authorities found marijuana and drug paraphernalia such as a scale, bags and pipes on the second floor.
  • Benton said fire officials told him the fire's cause was faulty wiring related to an extension cord that helped power the "grow."
Caldwell and McLaughlin were arraigned later Friday by on-duty District Judge Diane Marakovits of Northampton and committed to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail each.

They are facing charges that include possession with intent to deliver marijuana, criminal conspiracy, risking catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person.

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