Man pleads guilty to growing shrooms

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A 26-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to manufacturing psilocybin mushrooms and possessing 1 to 8 ounces of marijuana.

Michael Benninghoven, who was arrested Aug. 26 on charges of growing mushrooms in his condo on Burgess Creek Road, appeared in District Court on Monday.

As part of the plea agreement offered by the District Attorney's Office, Benninghoven received a four-year deferred sentence for the manufacturing charge, a Class 3 felony.

If Benninghoven abides by the conditions of the deferment, his felony charge will be dismissed after four years.

If Benninghoven violates the terms of agreement, which include not committing any crimes in the next four year, he could face between four and 12 years in prison.

Part of the plea agreement stipulated that Benninghoven pay $3,000 in fines for the manufacturing charge, lose his driver's license for 90 days and complete 48 hours of public service.

Under the plea agreement, Benninghoven will serve three months in jail for pleading guilty to possessing 1 to 8 ounces of marijuana. The guilty plea also comes with $600 in fines and 24 hours of community service.

A sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 7, when District Court Judge Michael O'Hara will make the decision on whether to accept the terms of Benninghoven's plea agreement.

On Aug. 26, the Grand, Routt and Moffat counties Narcotics Enforcement Team arrested Benninghoven after finding mushrooms, equipment, chemicals, supplies and notes for growing psilocybin mushrooms inside Benninghoven' residence.

Benninghoven was charged with the unlawful manufacturing, dispensing and possession of a Schedule I controlled substance.

The day before Benninghoven's arrest, GRAMNET received a tip that Benninghoven knew the agency was investigating his operation and that he could be removing evidence from his condo.

The police conducted surveillance on the condo complex, Xanadu Condominiums, and employees said they saw Benninghoven taking black trash bags from the apartment to Dumpsters in Ski Time Square. The trash contained mason jars with fungus and syringes for fungal spores.

Benninghoven admitted to police that he had been growing psilocybin mushrooms and eating the fungus for ten days leading to the incident.

Benninghoven allowed GRAMNET officials to search his condo and showed them the equipment, chemicals, supplies and notes used for cultivating psilocybin mushrooms. He also showed GRAMNET a container with several growing mediums covered with fungus, which is part of the cultivation process.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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