Divorced mother of three Andrea Sanderlin, 45, enjoyed horses and lived in a ritzy New York City suburb, but the government says she secretly ran a large-scale marijuana growing operation in Queens. Sanderlin's recent arrest invited comparisons to the plot of long-running Showtime series "Weeds."
Sanderlin was busted May 20 outside her alleged grow house in the New York City borough. Inside the single-story warehouse Drug Enforcement Administration agents reportedly found close to 3,000 marijuana plants.
The Scarsdale, N.Y., resident's troubles began in April when an associated five-person enterprise was nabbed for allegedly operating two other grow houses in New York City, The Smoking Gun reports. One of the men involved was Sanderlin's boyfriend, a fellow Scarsdale resident and father to her 3-year-old daughter. Another ratted her out - informing authorities that a woman known as "Andi" brought them marijuana seedlings and cash in her Mercedes-Benz SUV.
DEA agents surveilled Sanderlin after inspecting her rented warehouse's Con Edison electricity bill, which peaked at a whopping $9,000 a month, Newsday reports. She paid her bills in cash, but owed $14,000 in unpaid electricity bills for previously rented warehouses in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
Sanderlin was arrested after pulling up to the Queens building. In addition to her youngest child, she has a 13-year-old daughter and a 27-year-old son. Her large home just north of New York City, photographed by the New York Daily News, was maintained with help from a maid, who was reportedly apprehended with $7,900 in cash that was intended for Sanderlin's boyfriend. Another $6,000 was seized at the home.
It's unclear if the nanny faces any criminal charges.
"I just know that she told me she was going to work in the morning," the unidentified woman told The Smoking Gun, saying Sanderlin "kept to herself and didn't share much with me."
In a statement to the press, Sanderlin's attorney described the alleged businesswoman as a full-time housekeeper.
"It's not good being in a jail setting, especially if you've never been in trouble in your life and you're a 45-year-old full-time housewife and mother,'' Joel Winograd, her attorney told the New York Post.
Sanderlin's former father-in-law, North Carolina resident James Sanderlin, "started chuckling" when reached for comment by the Daily News.
"Isn't that something?" he said. "She and my son married young and have been divorced for upteen years. They had a son and my son raised him."
"Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan described the arrest as "a bummer," telling the Post, "It's tough being a stay-at-home mom - you have to make ends meet." The Emmy Award-winning TV series followed widowed suburban mom Nancy, who turned to small-scale pot deals for quick cash before developing a knack for the business and growing the drug. The character ultimately fathered a child with her drug lord boyfriend and her money-grubbing maid looked the other way in exchange for more money.
Sanderlin faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted of trafficking charges.
New York has more marijuana possession arrests per capita than any other state, according to a large-scale analysis released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. The state's per capita arrest rate for marijuana possession was 535 per 100,000 residents in 2010, according to the report, which was accompanied by a call for legalizing the drug.
A majority of Americans - 52 percent - believe marijuana should be legalized, according to poll results released in April by the Pew Research Center.