SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - A former South Carolina state trooper pled guilty in federal court Monday to manufacturing and possessing with intent to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, 30-year-old Kurt Steffen, of Summerville, pled guilty to charges stemming back from a Jan. 2010 arrest.
Evidence presented at Monday's change of plea hearing established that Steffen was part of a large scale indoor marijuana growing operation while employed as a state trooper with SC Highway Patrol.
Steffen was hired by highway patrol in May 2007 and graduated from the SC Police Academy in Nov. 2007. Some time thereafter, Steffen, along with others, decided to begin a large scale marijuana growing operation in order to make more money.
Steffen purchased 300 Stable Lane, a five-acre tract of land in Ridgeville in May 2008, which would serve as the location for the marijuana grow.
The Dorchester County Metro Narcotics Unit discovered the marijuana operation in Jan. 2010. Deputies found thousands of dollars worth of equipment and over 300 marijuana plants spread throughout three different structures on the property while executing a search warrant.
On Monday, Steffen admitted to transporting marijuana in his SC Highway Patrol vehicle. He also agreed to forfeit his interest in 300 Stable Lane to the federal government.
Steffen is facing five to 40 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $5 million to be followed by a minimum of four years supervised release. Sentencing has not yet occurred.
The case was investigated by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, and the Summerville Police Department, and Assistant United States Attorney Nick Bianchi of the Charleston office handled the case.