Pot bust nets suspects with past involvement in smuggling

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OAKFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — At a time when most people are thinking about retirement, two people instead face perhaps a lifetime behind bars after drug cops say they discovered a jumbo marijuana grow operation in northern Kent County run by the pair of convicted felons.

It was on a chunk of property on a rural road in Oakfield Township, outside Rockford, where members of the West Michigan Enforcement Team claim to have seized some 16 pounds of processed marijuana along with 80 plants.

Authorities say they also found a stash of illegally possessed weapons allegedly belonging to 67-year-old Stephen Louis Ruth and 57-year-old Alison Marie Blanchette.

Michigan State Police led the multijurisdictional investigation that resulted in a raid of the home listed in Blanchette’s name a couple weeks ago. The property includes numerous trailers and sheds and a chain around it warning away trespassers.

Both Blanchette and Ruth have convictions in Florida dating back to 1980.

According to newspaper accounts, Ruth used to own a restaurant in Punta Gorda, Florida, north of Fort Myers.

Authorities said in 1980 that he was fleeing to Mexico after he was implicated in a multi-state marijuana smuggling operation, according to published reports. The operation allegedly included boats and airplanes with altered registrations used to smuggle weed into the country from Colombia.

After his arrest, he claimed he had been in prison in Cuba for two years for violating its airspace and was then accused of working for the CIA, according to newspapers. He made a variety of colorful claims to reporters about his past.

But eventually, he was sentenced to at least five years in federal prison.

Blanchette has her own drug smuggling conviction from 1991 out of Florida.

Now, the pair face charges of delivery and manufacturing of marijuana, maintaining a drug house and being felons in possession of multiple weapons in Kent County. Blachette is being charged as a second-time felony offender.

Ruth is being charged as a fourth-time felony offender, which means he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

The couple is due in Kent County District Court this week. Both remain in jail on $50,000 bond.

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