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Mother in upscale New York suburb indicted as marijuana dealer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A mother of three in an upscale New York suburb was indicted on Tuesday on charges she ran a sophisticated marijuana operation, federal law enforcement officials said.

A federal grand jury indicted Andrea Sanderlin, 45, of Scarsdale, New York, a suburb 20 miles outside of Manhattan, said Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and other officials in a media release.

Law enforcement agents seized 2,800 marijuana plants and a large quantity of dried marijuana worth an estimated $3 million from a Queens warehouse. Sanderlin is accused of operating the facility which had state-of-the-art lighting, irrigation, electrical and ventilation systems and cost more than $9,000 a month to run.

"There's really no difference whether you're a suburban mom growing marijuana in a warehouse in Queens, or a cartel member making cocaine in the jungles of Colombia," said agent James Hayes, Jr. of the Department of Homeland Security.

Sanderlin's lawyer, Joel Winograd, was not immediately available for comment. If convicted, she faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to $10 million in fines.

After the mother of three was arrested last month, New York City tabloids compared her lifestyle - living in a Spanish-style mansion, driving a Mercedes SUV, horseback riding in equestrian gear - to the storyline of "Weeds," a television series about a suburban mom who becomes a pot dealer.

"Sanderlin could have focused her talents on building a legitimate business enterprise to support her family and serve as a role model for her children," Lynch said in the statement.

"Instead, she allegedly chose to inhabit the shadowy underworld of large-scale drug dealers, using drug proceeds to maintain her family's facade of upper middle class stability," the prosecutor said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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