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Former pot worker jailed in seed theft

Cultivator values yield at over $28,000 by Steven Mross | June 3, 2023 at 4:37 a.m.
Scott Bennett Rich - Submitted photo

HOT SPRINGS -- A former employee of a local marijuana cultivation facility was arrested Thursday on a felony warrant and accused of stealing "a special strain" of marijuana seeds valued at over $28,000 after he was fired last year.

Scott Bennett Rich, 45, who lists a St. Louis address, was booked into the Garland County jail shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday on one count of theft of property over $25,000, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Rich, who lists no prior local criminal history, was released on a $5,000 bond less than an hour later. The case was filed directly to Garland County Circuit Court on Aug. 23, 2022, and a warrant was issued for his arrest the next day. As of Friday, a court date had not been set on the matter.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by Alcoholic Beverage Control/Arkansas Tobacco Control investigator Stephen W. Brooks out of Little Rock, on March 20, 2022, shortly after noon, Brooks received a phone call from Jesse Trammel, senior vice president of New Day Cultivation, a medical marijuana cultivation facility at 260 Amity Road in Hot Springs.

Trammel told Brooks a theft of marijuana seeds had just occurred by an employee, identified as Rich. That same day, Brooks went to the facility and met with Trammel, who took him into the "Clone Room" where the theft occurred, authorities said.

Trammel showed him a locked box containing a number of packages of marijuana seeds, 76 in total, and told him Rich had stated he was going to take the seeds with him "if he wasn't going to work there." Trammel said he told Rich the seeds belonged to New Day and had been entered into the state's Inventory Control System.

Brooks viewed security footage from the Clone Room that showed Rich taking a box from a lower shelf and opening it, authorities said. He can be seen removing items from it, and replacing the box and then walking to another table with packages of seeds in his hand, authorities said. Reed then placed the seeds in a black trash bag and left the room with Trammel following, authorities said.

Brent McCord, president of New Day, stated he and Trammel had earlier decided it was time to let Rich "move on to other opportunities due to a poor workplace attitude." After talking with Rich, McCord stated Rich stood and shook his hand, "thanked us for the opportunity" and said "there was nothing else to talk about" so he was going to "grab a few supplies" and leave. He then went to the Clone Room and took the seeds from the safe, authorities said.

McCord told Brooks he could hear Trammel "pleading" with Rich as he chased him down the hallway, telling him the seeds were registered through the state to New Day and "were no longer his." McCord said Trammel tried "multiple times" to let Rich know what he was doing was against the law.

On March 22, 2022, Trammel advised Brooks via email the stolen seeds were acquired without cost to New Day, but if the seeds were to mature fully, producing a 2-ounce yield, the loss to New Day Cultivation would be $28,500 "at current market price."

On March 29, Brooks spoke with Annie Iselin of Team BOLD, a medical marijuana cultivator in Cotton Plant, who reportedly confirmed the estimation provided by Trammel as being "generally accurate." She stated in her experience the estimation by Trammel of a fully mature marijuana plant's yield of 2 ounces was "conservative."

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