Thomas Laverty of Clinton, who used Millbury plumbing business as front for marijauna grow gets 12 years

WORCESTER – Thomas Laverty, the local plumber who was convicted last year of using his business as a front for a large marijuana grow while he was gathering public support, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday.

40-year-old Laverty was convicted by a federal jury in Worcester last January on charges that he and father Charles Laverty used their Millbury plumbing business, Chuck Laverty & Son, as the front for a huge illegal marijuana grow.

During the course of the trial, the jury heard evidence of an elaborate cultivation business the Lavertys had set up in a warehouse near Thomas Laverty’s home in Clinton.

The government said the two – who were legitimate plumbers before the program – had hired workers to help them harvest up to eight pounds of marijuana a week, an amount that could sell for $ 750,000 over a year.

The couple’s lawyers argued the government’s allegations were exaggerated, noting that public sentiment had changed over marijuana, which is legal in Massachusetts and a growing number of states.

The jury convicted the couple of growing 100 or more marijuana plants – fewer than the 1,000 the government claimed – and laundering money through their business.

Charles Laverty died of cancer shortly after the verdict and before the conviction. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman cleared the conviction at the request of his attorney and with the approval of the prosecutor, citing the court’s rules on the matter.

Thomas Laverty also pleaded guilty last March of receiving federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by lying to the government about his income while growing marijuana.

On Tuesday, US assistant attorney William F. Abely II asked Hillman to sentence the younger Laverty to 15 years in prison.

Abely noted that Laverty had two previous drug abuse convictions on his file, resulting in a mandatory minimum 10 year sentence.

While Abely said sentencing guidelines should help but not bind, the judge was way too high on imprisonment – they called for 30 years to live – he thought 15 years was fair for several reasons.

Among them, Abely said, was Laverty defrauding the government of tax revenue from marijuana sales – and gaining an unfair advantage over companies that sell marijuana legally – while using his plumbing business as a front line.

Abely also panned Thomas Laverty’s decision to lie about his income as “shocking greed” in order to obtain government grocery stamps.

Abely said the government believes Laverty makes about $ 5,000 in cash a week for his part in growing marijuana, but still chooses to accept government benefits for those in need.

Laverty’s attorney James J. Gribouski did not respond to Abely’s criticism of food stamp fraud on Tuesday.

When Gribouski advocated the minimum sentence of 10 years, he noted that both of his client’s previous crimes were committed nearly 20 years ago, and also pointed to the decreasing stigma of marijuana in society.

Gribouski noted in court records that the couple would not have been prosecuted had they obtained a license to grow from the state. He noted that you can’t go far in Worcester without seeing a billboard.

Gribouski also defended Thomas Laverty’s character. His father’s alcoholism during his upbringing preceded his own drug problems that fueled his crimes two decades ago.

Laverty has continued to struggle with substance abuse since then, Gribouski said, but managed to care for his two children despite the death of his first wife.

Laverty has been sober since 2015, Gribouski said, and received an “excellent” letter of support from his daughter, Hailey Laverty, who praised her father as a giver who is much more than the charge he has faced.

“He really cares about everyone around him,” the freshman wrote, adding that she would like to become a federal judge and help transform the criminal justice system.

Judge Hillman called the letter “exceptional”.

“If (Hailey) ever wants a clerkship or an internship, this is her place,” he said.

In brief pre-sentencing remarks, Laverty apologized for his crimes and to his family.

“I know my actions were wrong and I am ready to use my time and move on,” he said.

In addition to the 12-year sentence, Hillman ordered an eight-year custody release, and Laverty returned $ 3,100 to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, which manages grocery stamps.

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