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Mark Rioux at his arraignment on Aug. 29 in Attleboro District Court.

ATTLEBORO — One of the partners in a marijuana business preparing to open in the city has been charged in connection with an illegal marijuana growing operation busted by police last month.

Mark P. Rioux, 36, of 1 Lochmont Drive, North Attleboro, pleaded innocent Thursday in Attleboro District Court to conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws to traffic in marijuana.

Rioux, who is a real estate agent, is listed in city and state records as an owner and partner in the proposed Nova Farms marijuana business, also known as Bristol County Wellness Center.

Police allege Rioux conspired with Marshall Muir, 39, of Warwick, to set up an illegitimate marijuana growing operation in buildings at 46 Eddy St., also known as Eddy Square, according to court records.

“That’s totally false,” Rioux said after his arraignment before a man accompanying him told him not to talk. “I’m a real estate agent.”

Rioux is free on $500 cash bail and is due back in court next month with a lawyer.

He was arrested Wednesday on a warrant obtained by Attleboro police detectives Gabriel D’Agostino and Matthew Cook. They were assisted by North Attleboro police in the arrest.

During a raid July 16, Attleboro police seized 143 marijuana plants growing inside buildings at Eddy Street along with sophisticated equipment required to grow the plants. Police estimated the value of the plants when harvested at up to $570,000 on the street.

“At this time in the investigation we have concluded that Mr. Rioux had involvement in both legal and illegal grow operations,” Lt. Timothy Cook Jr., chief of the Attleboro detective unit, said Thursday.

Cook said police believe there are other individuals involved in the Eddy Street operation and the investigating is continuing.

After Muir was arrested July 17, police obtained a search warrant for his cellphone and extracted messages allegedly between Rioux and Muir, according to court records.

“The messages show Rioux having direct communication with Muir and indicate that Rioux had direct knowledge of Muir’s intention(s) at the Eddy Street buildings,” a police affidavit says.

The affidavit, written by Detective Matthew Cook, also states the messages also indicate Rioux “actively scouting locations for Muir to set up and use for the unlawful venture(s) of running an illicit marijuana grow operation.”

The two men also engaged in negotiations and setting up contracts for the use of the Eddy Street buildings, according to the affidavit.

The messages occurred between June and August of 2018 and allegedly include discussions about using additional locations for future use “as part of an on-going, expanding operation,” Cook said.

Muir, who is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, allegedly started renting three units at Eddy Street in August 2018, according to court records. He has pleaded innocent and is due back in court next month.

Nova Farms is preparing to open soon at 34 Extension St., in the city’s industrial park off County Street.

They also have applied to the city to build a retail shop for medical and recreational marijuana just off Route 1 bounded by Chartier, Bacon and Westminster streets in South Attleboro.

The company CEO and president, Derek Ross, said he did not have good reception when reached by The Sun Chronicle on his cellphone Thursday. He did not return calls or immediately answer an email asking about Rioux’s arrest.

There are nine partners and owners of BCWC, a limited liability corporation, listed with the state Cannabis Control Commission. BCWC, which stands for Bristol County Welless Center, was granted a provisional license in June for cultivation, product manufacturing and retail.

David Linton may be reached at 508-236-0338.

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