A Philadelphia lawyer is facing a mandatory 10 year prison sentence after being convicted of operating a sizable and sophisticated marijuana grow operation in North Philadelphia.
Richard K. Creamer, 38, practiced real estate and corporate law in Northern Liberties. In October 2007, Creamer and James Alberts, a South Philadelphia contractor, bought a warehouse on the 2300 block of American Street, said Asst. U.S. Attorney Joseph T. Labrum, III.
Creamer and Alberts, 37, had worked together before, buying distressed properties and flipping them for a tidy profit. But when Creamer learned that Alberts was grossing thousands of extra dollars a month with a grow operation at 3rd and Tasker Streets, Creamer wanted in.
Alberts was initially apprehensive about cutting Creamer in, but he eventually relented, Labrum said.
"It was his chance to do his best ever grow and make even more money," Labrum said. "He couldn't have done it without Creamer's contribution."
According to Alberts, who testified at Creamer's trial in federal court, they spent $100,000 to renovate the structure expressly to create a high-tech marijuana farm on the building's second floor, Labrum said.
The grow operation was wildly successful. Between March 2009 and June 2009, a team of gardeners harvested 20 pounds of high-grade cannabis a month, Labrum said.
Creamer's share of the monthly harvest ranged from four to five pounds which the gardeners would pile in his private office across the hall or deliver directly to his house, Labrum said. Creamer then handed off the weed to his brother, a New York City DJ, to sell, Labrum said.
Creamer and Alberts began to dream big. On July 2, 2009 the entrepreneurial partners flew to the West Coast. There, they signed an agreement of sale to buy a 40 acre tract in Northern California they intended to use as an outdoor cannabis farm.
Two weeks later, DEA agents raided the Philadelphia warehouse and arrested Alberts and eight others. The agents found more than 1,600 marijuana plants growing under 1,000 watt sodium lights in three cultivation rooms.
Creamer canceled the Northern California deal, Labrum said, claiming he just learned his business partner was involved in criminal activity.
Creamer was convicted Thursday of conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants and maintaining a place for manufacture of controlled substances. Sentencing is scheduled for May 23.
Labrum said Alberts also pleaded guilty to similar charges and it awaiting sentencing.