Cops bust large marijuana operation in former Berardi's restaurant

Nearly 80 plants and $10,000 worth of equipment seized; one suspect arrested.
Cary Ashby
Mar 13, 2014


Two law enforcement agencies seized evidence of one of the largest marijuana-grow operations in the Norwalk area Wednesday.

"This was a joint effort between the Norwalk Police Department and the Huron County Sheriff's Office," police Detective Sgt. Jim Fulton said.

The suspect, Thomas G. Sterling, 31, of 29 Milan Road, Monroeville, is charged with tampering with evidence. If convicted, he faces nine months to three years in prison.

"We believe Thomas Sterling was responsible for cultivating the marijuana at Berardi's (Catering)," sheriff's Detective Sgt. Josh Querin said.

The investigation started a few days ago when police Sgt. Seth Fry received information about Sterling from a tipster.

"Sgt. Querin was able to corroborate some stuff as was Sgt. Fry," Fulton said.

Authorities obtained a search warrant Wednesday from Norwalk Municipal Court Judge Eric Weisenburger.

"We had information on a marijuana grow here," Fulton said, referring to Berardi's Catering, 204 Cleveland Road. "Obviously the information was accurate."

Using the warrant at Berardi's were Fulton, Fry, Officers Paul Gardner and Tim Skinner, as well as sheriff's office personnel Querin and Detectives Kayla Zander and Eric Bardar, Sgt. Tod Wagner and Deputy Mitch Cawrse.

At 9:57 a.m. Wednesday, firefighters gained entry to Berardi's for officers.

"We ended up getting assistance from the fire department. They had a dead bolt (on the door)," Fulton said.

"You could smell it from the outside when we got here," Fulton said, referring to the marijuana.

Officers confiscated 78 marijuana plants from Berardi's.

"There were 13 small plants. ... Most of them were mature -- ready to be harvested," Fulton said. "It looks like they were cloning plants and had several different varieties."

The detective estimated the biggest plants were "better than 3 feet (tall), which was consistent with the information we received."

"He had in fact started harvesting some of them," Fulton added. "He made some admissions."

Officers also seized various lighting equipment from Berardi's.

"He (Sterling) told Seth there was $10,000 worth of equipment," Fulton said.

In a related move, Querin and other sheriff's deputies used a warrant Wednesday at Sterling's residence in Monroeville. A person called the Reflector newsroom and reported there was a house marked off with police tape.

"There were no plants growing (there) at the time. ... When the search warrant was executed, Thomas Sterling was the only one in the home," said Querin, although Sterling reportedly told a detective "he had grown marijuana at his residence in the past."

Deputies seized various lighting equipment, a small amount of cash and various pieces of suspected drug paraphernalia from Sterling's home.

"There were three guns seized from the residence as well as the grow equipment," Querin said.

"There were signs of a young child in the house who stays with (Sterling) from time to time. He said it was a boy (who is) 9 years old," the detective added.

Once deputies determined Sterling lives in Monroeville, they had Monroeville Police Chief Gary Lyons attempt to contact the suspect.

"Prior to our arrival, he had flushed marijuana down the toilet," Querin said. "He received some intelligence we were coming to his house and decided to discard the marijuana."

The marijuana plants seized from Berardi's will need to be dried and weighed.

"We'll probably end up taking them to the Mansfield Police Department. It will have to dry for about two weeks," Fulton said.

Denise Berardi-Waaland and her husband, Larry, sold the Norwalk Berardi's restaurant building on Cleveland Road at an auction during the summer of 2013. The couple retired after more than a combined 70 years in the food business.

Fulton said Sterling had been renting the eastern portion of the building "since shortly after they closed the restaurant."

"I think this (marijuana grow) started shortly after the restaurant closed," Fulton said. "He's only renting half of the building."

However, it's unclear what connection, if any, Sterling has to Berardi's or its owners.

"This was probably the biggest one (grows) I've seen in Norwalk," Fulton said. "This is only the second one I've seen on this scale.

"Occasionally you'll see someone growing marijuana plants in their house. When you see a couple plants, that's for personal use," the detective explained.

"I believe he (Sterling) was going to sell it," Fulton added.

On the street, 1/8 of an ounce of marijuana sells for $25 to $35.

"It depends on the quality you're buying," Fulton said. "(Marijuana) with higher THC will be more expensive."



You call others Troll's? Your pathetic.
What part do you teach your child about OBEYING THE LAWS?
Its AGAINST the law and you make excuses for its use? What kind of parent are YOU?

What are you going to teach YOUR children next, its against the law to steal but so what, do what you want?

Again, you pot heads have no morals, ethics or absolutes.


still trying to troll. I stated I teach my children how the world works I never said I teach them anarchy. you truly are a special kind of person you like to twist things to make others look bad how sad.

jack langhals

Yea,what happen to the fried egg commercial ? Does it fry your brain or not, or just make u stupid ? Should be more traffic revenue, right ?


even if it's legalized in Ohio people will still obtain it illegally!Probably 90 % of them will be loafers!

Mr Spock

why not just make it legal already look at the income the state would make....sure better pain pills which they want to make it hard for people to get...I suffer everyday cut my pills in half just to get by. The pot helps believe me I can at least function and get out of bed.

Did you sign one of these?


Am I the only one that thinks this is wrong?? I see all these comments about "legalizing" it and how great his family is.....this man had a very larger ILLEGAL growing shop setup in a building! Maybe it should be legal, but it's not! And to have a child in the home where he admittedly grew it in the past and presently had marijuana, this is crazy to me. This man needs to have some serious charges, including a charge for having guns in the home with the drugs! I don't care how great his family is, or if it was only "weed"....this man is a criminal!


because growing plants kills children....stop the madness.....think of the children....


they don't care about children. If they want to smoke thats all that matters. I can assure you that few here have an issue of aborting babies and you think they care about children? Their lawless low lifes, the bunch of them.


yes lots of lowlife people exist. but not everyone is like that.




Yeah wildbunch probably only you. Please support though Ricky Vitte & others like him. This is a backward county with its share of egos. MJ will become legal.


Why did I get an email about this story like is was some big F_ING breaking news keep your children away from the windows type ish..... can you explain to me please. Does anyone really think pot is bad? I just do not get it.


Of course I will be blasted for this, but it’s sad that this country has become a bunch of pot heads who have no self respect and very little morals. Let’s hear the worn out mantra of smoking being safer than alcohol, that doesn't hold water.

There are those who have wine etc because it tastes good and actually does have some benefits to ones health, as long as it’s not abused. Even the Bible says to take a little wine but it says not to dabble in "Pharmakos”, or mind enhancing drugs. So if you’re a “Christian’ as most of the deceived in this country claim, you will have a great amount of explaining and accountability at the judgment day. God considers grass usage outside medical needs to be the same as dabbling in the demonic world. Pubs were everywhere because drinking water was not safe where as wine/beer kills bacteria, thus the ‘water hole’ became the name of the local pub.
So, a person can have a couple of glasses of wine and be ok, but there is NO reason whatsoever to smoke dope except to get high, PERIOD. (excluding a doctor’s advice)
Now take your turns attacking me to defend your depravity as those who crucified the Lord, hating His message so much that they were like roaring lions tearing His flesh apart. Its par for the course for those who are lawless and self centered. This prophetic Psalm is of Christ on the Cross and those who hated His commands. “Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me ;they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.” (Psalm 22:12-13, ESV)


"God considers grass usage outside medical needs to be the same as dabbling in the demonic world"

This is one reason the world is in chaos. You actually believe this?


@Truth2u: You have no idea what you're talking about. All the potheads I know have just enough self respect and since you don't know any better, pot WILL bring out your morals whether you like it or not. So stfu and find something else to comment on because you are not educated enough on this subject. Your bible quotes are irrelevant.


Criminal? Really?!?! His child was never exposed to any of it. I can personally tell you this man is one of the best fathers out there. And as far as his guns, he has a permit to carry. They are not illegal and I'm pretty sure they are locked in a safe. There are much bigger problems in this county than marijuana. And before anyone judges I do not smoke marijuana, I do not even smoke cigarettes. But do I think this is getting out of hand, legalize it already! Go after the real "criminals" !


Did you sign the petition to have it on the ballot? Because that is the first step. Huron county only needs about 800 signatures


For those saying "Big deal, it SHOULD be legal" right there is the problem....SHOULD be. Right now in the state of Ohio, it is still ILLEGAL. He was ILLEGALY growing Marijuana! Therefore he was arrested for his growing operation. His large growing operation. Until it is LEGAL in the state of will continue to get arrested. Just because someday in the future something MIGHT be legal does NOT make it now.


people can be sad for this man get over it.


Why are you sad for this man? Sad for his stupidity? Sad because he broke the law? Sad because he got caught? Sad because he has a record now?


I am not sad, he broke the law now must face the punishment. I hope he can clear his record someday and have a good life.


I'll have some fries with that!

kimi43464's picture

the real crime here is that we've wasted time and resources busting a marijuana grower! Lets run out and bust some beer brewers, they do more damage then the men and women growing pot could possibly begin to do! Having been exposed to this "addiction" for years, I'd rather face a hundred potheads before dealing with one alcoholic!!! seriously people those of you who spout obviously do not know what you're talking about!


Truth2u alcohol is worse than mj. If it's not explain how people can die from overdosing on alcohol. Have you ever heard of someone overdosing on weed? Sometimes people might feel like they are but it's impossible to do. I do not smoke it myself because it is illegal (for the time being). I hope they do legalize it and we as a state could profit from it tremendously. As a country this could be a start to getting out of debt. As humans we all do something for a high. It is our nature. Whether it be skydiving, running, or smoking a joint. It all triggers a chemical stimulation. So get over yourself and stop trying to preach to others who like a different, but yet somewhat safe, high than you. It's not like it's heroin or crack.

JMOP's picture

I'll just ask what everybody else is thinking: Will there still be a Beradi's stand? I sure hope so. That food is awesome!


I agree with that! See... potheads know how to make good food lmao


Really his child was never exposed to it??? I beg to differ! I also know this man, his son, and his family. This child is devastated by what has happened to his father! It is illegal, that's the bottom line! If he was such an outstanding parent he would of NEVER done something that jeopardized him being incarcerated and taken away from his son. I'm sorry but "great parents" follow the law, regardless if it should be legal or not. Just because I "think" that people who rape children should be killed, doesn't make it okay for it to happen. If I did that I would be breaking the law and therefor put in prison. It's like smokers feel that since it should be allowed, no consequences should be handed out to those that do it.
I do not smoke, and I do think it should be legal, but until that time comes I will continue to support law enforcement on busting the peoe that grow and sell it.


I can agree with this. as a parent I would never take the risk of being away from my child that is just wrong children need their parents. but I do know we need to stop with with the pot stuff and focus more of pills and opiates. do you see the problem with silly pot laws because of those silly laws this man faces more prison time than people selling heroin I don't know about you but that is a kick in the balls to any enlightened society.


I agree that heroin addicts/dealers most defiantly should serve more time then they do, but the law is the law no matter what part of it you're breaking. In the eye of the court this man is no better then a heroin dealer. Yes I would much rather see someone smoking pot as to shooting up heroin, but they are BOTH illegal. I hope nothing but the best for Tom, he has a wonderful son and family, but he needs to be punished just as any other dealer.