To people who didn’t know her well, Andrea Sanderlin was a fairly typical mom. She doted on her two young daughters and bragged about their endeavors to anyone who’d listen. She was to be the maid of honor in a wedding next month. She goes to dinner parties and family functions. She designs baby furniture.
That’s what she tells people, anyway.
“She’s a great mom,” one friend told The Daily Beast. “Because she’s all about being a mom.”
But the few people Sanderlin allowed inside a tight “inner circle” knew the 45-year-old Scarsdale, N.Y., woman kept a loosely guarded secret that funded a lavish lifestyle: a secret straight out of the Showtime series Weeds.
Sanderlin was running a massive marijuana growing operation out of Queens, federal authorities allege in a criminal complaint released Tuesday. Agents seized 2,800 marijuana plants and large quantities of dried marijuana from the sprawling, two-room warehouse where she allegedly tended to her plants on an industrial block in Maspeth, Queens, according to documents obtained by The Smoking Gun.
Sanderlin’s arrest came as a shock to some. To others, not so much.
“I knew she was growing weed. It was just kind of known,” said one friend, who spoke on the condition that she not be named. “I had no idea how extensive it was.”
What Sanderlin didn’t hide were the apparent spoils of the operation: a leased four bedroom, five-bathroom, 5,500-square-foot Spanish-style mansion on a tranquil street in one of New York City’s wealthiest suburbs. A Mercedes GL4 sport-utility vehicle. The “biggest diamond ring I’ve ever seen in person, on a human person, outside of a museum,” according to the friend—an engagement ring given to her by her boyfriend, Vince “Rome” Garcia. The Friesian horse and newfound equestrian hobby she cultivated at Twin Lakes Farm in Bronxville, where private lessons go for $95 an hour.
“She was into plastic surgery,” the friend said. “She got a Brazilian butt lift that she actually went to Brazil for.”
While she didn’t hide her wealth, Sanderlin kept her alleged pot business under wraps, at least until an anonymous informant tipped off the New York branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency after the arrest of five men in a separate incident in April. In order to save himself, one of the five arrested growers ratted out Sanderlin, whom he referred to as “Andi.”
Federal agents responding to the tip eventually found Sanderlin’s posh house and her three vehicles—a white Chevy van and black Jeep Liberty, along with the Mercedes. Then they found a clue: Sanderlin was paying $9,000 a month in electricity fees to Con Edison. In cash.
“I know that large cash payments are consistent with narcotics activity,” the indictment read.
Agents tracked Sanderlin for more than a week as she went about her daily routine, driving the gray Mercedes from 193 Saxon Woods Road in Scarsdale across the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and parking in the driveway of 58-15 57th Drive in Queens, the site of the warehouse registered as a New York City corporation called Fantastic Enterprises. On May 20, the agents stopped Sanderlin, identified themselves, and searched the warehouse.
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