Racine ex-convict arrested in connection with marijuana grow op

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Mark Vartanian

RACINE (WITI) — 57-year-old Mark Vartanian is an ex-convict, now charged after he was arrested in connection with a large marijuana grow operation.

Vartanian now faces the following charges:

  • possession of a firearm by a felon
  • manufacture/deliver THC as party to a crime, second and subsequent offense
  • maintaining a drug trafficking place as party to a crime
  • possession with intent to deliver or manufacture THC, second a subsequent offense

A criminal complaint in the case says a search warrant was issued on Vartanian’s home on Kingston Avenue on Monday afternoon, September 16th, during which numerous marijuana plants and evidence of a grow operation were seized from the home, along with numerous firearms.

The complaint says a bedroom in the front of the home contained several marijuana plants, lights suspended from the ceiling, and had the windows around an air conditioning unit blacked out.

Officials discovered a grow closet on the second floor of the home, containing a large marijuana plant. The criminal complaint indicates fresh air was being filtered into the grow closet, and other air vented outside of the home.

Inside this room was a bed with three long guns located underneath it. Additionally two handguns were located, according to the criminal complaint.

A room in the basement looked prepared to be turned into a grow room, according to the criminal complaint, and five additional plants were located growing in pots outside.

Investigators were able to seize the marijuana plants, drug paraphernalia, and weapons, including a .32 caliber semi-automatic handgun, a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, a gun box, an AR-15 rifle with three magazines and two shotguns. The criminal complaint indicates officials discovered hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Officials say Vartanian was convicted of manufacturing THC in Racine County, and is a convicted felon and repeat drug offender.

On Wednesday, September 18th, FOX6 News spoke with Vartanian’s 23-year-old son Mitchell, who was home at the time the search warrant was executed. He said his father wasn’t home, and doesn’t smoke marijuana.

“I have bad eyes and a bad back — probably going to go blind in my middle age,” Mitchell Vartanian told FOX6 News.

Mitchell Vartanian told FOX6 News he is the one who grows the marijuana — not his father.

“We are a little in the dark ages here in Wisconsin. I guess we learned our lesson — it’s not Colorado or Washington, is it?” Mitchell Vartanian said.

Mitchell Vartanian also downplayed his father’s past criminal history — saying his father is not a violent guy.

“All I’m going to say is so what that my dad has a criminal charge and can’t have weapons in the house? They all belong to me. It’s not like we’re gangsters or anything. Got a house full of weed, got to protect it somehow right?” Mitchell Vartanian said.