Hemp farmer says thieves looking for marijuana are leaving in cuffs and disappointed

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Pete Bunker says 2020 seems to be the year for hemp thieves. Already, he says he’s caught people sneaking into his fields at Bunker Hemp LLC almost 10 times.

“This is the worst issues we’ve had. We had a very small amount last year,” Bunker explains.

Bunker has approval from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets to grow hemp and produce CBD oil. Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffrey Smith says just in the last week of September, deputies arrested five people trying to burglarize a few buds for themselves.

“Our belief is that these are just young adults that felt, they didn’t understand that they were hemp plants and maybe thought that they were an illegal marijuana grow or something they could benefit with or get high from. Had they gotten away with it, they would’ve been extremely disappointed anyways,” Sheriff Smith laughs in a phone call with NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

He confirms Joseph Banovic, of Broad Street, Gloversville, Austin H. Flansburg, of Mathew Street, Johnstown, and Michael Rumberger, of State Highway 67, Johnstown were arrested on September 22 and charged with felony larceny. The three are accused of trying to steal around $4000 worth of hemp from Bunker’s farm.

Smith also confirms on September 26, deputies arrived at the fields responding to a larceny in progress. They reportedly found Austin J. Baker, of Wright Avenue, Schenectady, and Robert Stevens III, 30, of Country Brook Road, Rotterdam causing around $14,000 worth of damage while trying to cut down several hemp plants in the back corner of Bunker’s lot. Smith says the two tried to drive off in a truck once law enforcement arrived, but they didn’t make it to the end of the street before they were caught.

Both now face charges for felony larceny and misdemeanors for unlawful fleeing a police officer and reckless driving. Bunker says they’ve set up a camera system, stakeouts, and keep a constant contact with the sheriff’s office to make sure any future attempted thieves are also quickly caught.

“Don’t mess with us,” he says simply. “Not quite sure what the reason you’re stealing for, but you know I put my hard work, sweat, and tears into this stuff and you’re taking from my livelihood if you’re taking from me.”

Meanwhile over in Mayfield, thieves did get away with anywhere from $11,000 to $17,000 worth of hemp. Now, New York State Police are involved asking anyone with information to call in, even if you run across a sale of “fake marijuana”.

“They can do this anonymously, we are just looking for any information to help this farmer out,” says Troop G Trooper Meghan Lohman. “This particular farmer was just trying to supplement his dairy farm. These are hard working people you’re stealing from.”

“This is a legitimate business and their success is what Montgomery County needs. One of us succeeds, we all win,” says Sheriff Smith.

Bunker says even though the two plants look and even smell the same, hemp is not marijuana.

“This is a hemp plant,” Bunker showed NEWS10 during a visit to his fields. “As you can see it looks a lot like a marijuana plant. This is in full bud, it’s ready to be harvested. If you can see crystallization on these, the crystallization are the actual CBD crystals.”

Hemp takes long man hours and specialized processing equipment to make it profitable. It’s completely useless to someone without it.

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