Farm items from Michael Hays' marijauna operation sold at auction

March 08, 2004|JIM LOGAN

It took little more than an hour and a half Saturday for Michael Hays' last claim to being a real farmer to disappear. The staccato chants of the auctioneers sold off every piece of the convicted marijuana grower's farm equipment.

The auction of the seized goods was ordered by U.S. District Court as a result of Hays' conviction last year for running a multimillion-dollar marijuana-growing enterprise that stretched from Gravel Switch to Wisconsin.

At least a thousand farmers descended on the Danville Convention Center for the auction, which drew 450 registered bidders from seven states.

"We had a fantastic sale," said Bruce Helm of Helm & Reynolds Realty & Auction Co., which conducted the auction. He declined to say how much it raised.


"I thought there'd be a crowd, but this is a tremendous crowd," said Ron Pemberton of Danville.

The bidders had dozens of items to choose from: four John Deere tractors, silage wagons, a high-end horse trailer, wagons, mowers, balers and more.

Much of the equipment appeared to be in excellent shape.

Pemberton pointed out that some pieces looked little-used, with their original paint intact. Regular use should have worn it off, he said.

Hays, however, didn't make his money from conventional farming.

"I guess what I'm saying it was more for effect than function," Pemberton said of the equipment.

The bidding was swift. Auctioneers in a pickup moved from item to item. Those looking for steals weren't finding much.

"There was no bargains," said Dan Reed of Kinney, who bought a farm wagon for $550.

Pemberton, who said he was interested in buying equipment for resale later, agreed. The goods, he said, were "bringing real money."

Tractor with a loader brought $48,750

The most expensive item was a John Deere 7410 tractor with a loader and just 1,260 hours on it, which brought $48,750. A Deere 7800 tractor with dual wheels and 2,433 hours went for $48,000. A 1998 Eby horse trailer with tack room brought $19,100.

Thomas Beachy, an Amish farmer from Liberty who was there with his brothers Joseph and David, had his eye on a silage wagon that looked nearly new.

A price of $5,500 might have been reasonable, he said. But the bidding quickly took it to $7,100. He and his brothers bought nothing.

Hays, 43, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for running his marijuana-growing operation out of Gravel Switch. The enterprise involved families in Boyle and Garrard counties, as wells as farmers in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin who grew marijuana for Hays in corn fields.

His wife, Trena Hays, 46, was sentenced to 5 years, four months for her role in the ring.

The farm equipment was just a fraction of what the government has seized from Hays under federal property forfeiture laws.

In November the government sold $66,480 worth of Hays' cattle.

Additionally, police have seized $4 million in cash, vehicles and property from Hays and his wife.

The seizures include:

* Ten properties totaling 787.84 acres located in the Gravel Switch area. Deeds show that Hays paid a total of $643,000 for these properties:

* Boyle County - 81.698 acres, 107.5 acres and 115.05 acres, all in the North Rolling Fork in the Forkland community.

* Casey County - 90.5 acres on Little South Fork and Ky. 243; 81.697 acres off Ky. 37, 60 acres on North Rolling Fork, and 49 acres on Ky. 37.

* Marion County - 244.5 acres on North Rolling Fork; 20.489 acres on Rawlings Road, and 44.748 acres on Ky. 243.

* $129,790 from a Heritage Community Trust Bank account and $26,000 in cash.

* 2002 black Cadillac Escalade.

* 2002 white Chevrolet 3500 truck.

* 1999 red Ford F550.

* 2001 gray Ford F550.

* 1995 black GMC Sierra.

* 2002 blue Ford F350 pickup.

The story includes contributions from staff writer Liz Maples.

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