03/07/2013 09:21 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Hamilton family disguised grow-op as legal medical marijuana business: police

HAMILTON - Police say a Hamilton family and their lawyer have been charged with trying to disguise a profitable marijuana grow operation as the legitimate production of medical marijuana.

RCMP and Hamilton police allege the family and its associates fraudulently obtained licences for the production of marijuana under Health Canada's medical marijuana regulations.

Police say by amassing a substantial number of these licences, the group was able to develop a profitable, and seemingly legal, marijuana grow operation.

Investigators allege their distribution network extended as far east as Newfoundland.

Police have charged a dozen Hamilton residents — ranging in age from 20 to 56 — with various drug and criminal organization counts.

The accused are scheduled to appear in Hamilton court in April.

RCMP Insp. Steve Martin said the Mounties take the criminal exploitation of government programs very seriously.

"This is a flagrant abuse of the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations for profit," Martin said Thursday.