6 suspects in black market pot-sale bust facing prison

May 4, 2012

Chicago Tribune on May 3, 2012 released the following:

“Chris Conrad
Mail Tribune, Medford, Ore.

Federal prosecutors say the six men accused of funneling thousands of pounds of excess buds grown on medical marijuana farms to the black market could face a mandatory five years in prison if they are convicted.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Fong said federal statutes allow for mandatory prison sentences for marijuana offenses if more than 100 plants are involved. However, prosecutors could forgo the mandatory sentences, depending on the suspects’ criminal history and whether they cooperate with the investigation. “The absolute maximum penalty would be 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine,” Fong said.

Fong said four named in the federal indictment released Tuesday have made their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Medford.

Brian Wayne Simmons, Clifford Ruhland, Caleb Joseph Kulp and Scott Grantski appeared in court on charges of manufacture, delivery and possession of marijuana, Fong said.

Michael Reed Peru and John Wayne Johnson could be arraigned in the near future, Fong said.

“They are not being held in jail at this time,” Fong said. The men have deep ties to the Rogue Valley and are not believed to be a flight risk prior to their trial, Fong said.

The men are believed to have grown at least 4,000 pounds of excess marijuana at medical gardens in Medford and Central Point last year, according to a federal affidavit.

The buds from these plants were in the process of drying when Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the farms on Dark Hollow, East Gregory and Table Rock roads in October, the affidavit says.

Fong said the scope of the investigation was responsible for the nearly seven-month lag time between the raids and the indictment.

DEA investigators culled through bank records and video surveillance linked to the group as they tried to piece the case together. “It takes time to look through all this evidence and try to understand what you’re seeing,” Fong said.

Investigators believe Peru was a major player in the crimes, which include moving pounds of Southern Oregon marijuana up Interstate 5 for sale in Washington.

Peru made local headlines about eight years ago when he tried to build a golf course on private and environmentally sensitive public land at the site of the Billings Ranch in north Ashland.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Peru declined to comment on the claims made by the DEA in the indictment.

“All I can say is that I didn’t do half of what they accused me of,” Peru said. “I’m going to wait and see what happens before I make a statement.”

Peru’s son, identified as Reed Peru in the indictment, was arrested by Washington police after allegedly selling 12 pounds of marijuana to a police informant in Bremerton, near Seattle.

Prosecutors believe Mike Peru was selling buds grown in Jackson County in Washington.

Bank account records noted in the indictment showed that Mike Peru, Simmons and Ruhland deposited upwards of $40,000 in cash at a time between October 2010 and October 2011. Prosecutors believe the proceeds are from black-market marijuana.

Attempts to reach the five other men named in the indictment were not successful Wednesday.

Peru did say that Ruhland was the boyfriend of Kaelin Glazier at the time the Ruch teen was killed in 1996.

“He told me once that he never really got over that,” Peru said.

Ruhland has a previous felony marijuana conviction, according to Jackson County Circuit Court records.

Fong said the plants pulled from the suspects’ farms were “impressive” in their size and the amount of high-quality buds they produced.

“Some of these plants produced more than 10 pounds of bud,” Fong said.

Oregon Medical Marijuana Program guidelines allow a registered grower to produce six mature plants 12 inches or taller per patient, for up to four patients.

There is no limit to the number of growers per site. But all the marijuana produced must belong to the patients, who can possess only 1.5 pounds of usable buds at one time.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Student forgotten in cell for 5 days will sue DEA

May 3, 2012

CNN on May 2, 2012 released the following:

“By Alan Duke, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) — A San Diego college student filed a legal claim Wednesday for damages suffered when he was left handcuffed and without food or water in a Drug Enforcement Administration holding cell for five days last month.

A DEA statement said Daniel Chong, 23, was “accidentally left” in a holding cell.

“Accidentally? He almost died,” said Chong’s lawyer, Gene Iredale. “It’s inexplicable.”

Chong drank his own urine to survive as his cries for help were ignored by federal agents and inmates in nearby cells, Iredale said.

The fifth-year engineering student at the University of California, San Diego, was detained on the morning of April 21, a Saturday, when DEA agents raided a house they suspected was being used to distribute MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.

A multi-agency narcotics task force including state agents detained nine people and seized about 18,000 MDMA pills, marijuana, prescription medications, hallucinogenic mushrooms, several guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition from the house, the DEA said.

Chong admitted going to the house “to get high with his friends,” the DEA said. He later told a San Diego TV station that he knew nothing about the other drugs and guns. He was never formally arrested or charged, the DEA said.

The agents sent seven suspects to county jail and released another person, but Chong “was accidentally left in one of the cells,” the DEA said. The agency did not explain how he was forgotten for five days in the small, windowless cell.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of Wednesday, April 25, that an agent opened the steel door to Chong’s cell and found the handcuffed student, Iredale said.

“Even if they forgot him for the weekend, there is no account for how they could have left him there for three full business days,” Iredale said.

The acting special agent in charge of the DEA’s San Diego office said he was “deeply troubled” by the incident and he offered his “deepest apologies” to Chong.

“This event is not indicative of the high standards that I hold my employees to,” William Sherman said. “I have personally ordered an extensive review of our policies and procedures.”

On Wednesday, Iredale filed a damage claim with the DEA, which he said is the beginning of the process for a civil suit in federal court.

“He began hallucinating sometime around the end of the second or start of the third day,” Iredale said. “At some point, he wanted to kill himself because of pain.”

Not knowing why he was being kept in the cell without food, water or a toilet for so long confused him, Iredale said.

He lost track of time in the dark cell, his lawyer said. “At the end, he just wanted to die because he was crazy.”

Chong contorted himself to shift his handcuffed arms from behind his back to the front, Iredale said. This allowed him to use his eyeglasses to scratch a message to his family on his arm: “Sorry mom.”

He was rushed to a hospital, where he was kept in intensive care for two days, having been close to death from kidney failure, Iredale said.

The Cerritos, California, native is now recovering at home, he said.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Vallejo-Based Rappers Arrested as Part of Major Investigation of Alleged Drug Trafficking Throughout the United States

April 25, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on April 24, 2012 released the following:

“SACRAMENTO, CA—A number of arrests have occurred in a major federal investigation into drug trafficking throughout the country, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, agents arrested a total of 25 individuals in Vallejo, Stockton, Fairfield, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, and Oklahoma City. Some of those arrested are Vallejo-based rappers and associates of an entertainment label known as Thizz Entertainment.

Vallejo Police Chief Robert Nichelini stated, “This is another example of partnership that exists between the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Vallejo Police Department to improve the safety of our community and reduce the level of violence associated with drug dealing. We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California in coordinating the investigation and prosecuting the persons involved in such a complex and dangerous criminal enterprise.”

During the investigation, agents seized approximately 45,000 MDMA pills, approximately four pounds of crack cocaine, a half-pound of heroin, and $200,000 in suspected drug proceeds. Agents also forfeited 230 acres of property valued at approximately $1 million as part of the investigation. As part of last Thursday’s takedown, agents executed three federal search warrants and seized approximately five pounds of marijuana, a loaded firearm, a 2010 Audi A6 with an estimated value of $60,000, and an Audi S5 with an estimated value of $50,000. Agents seized $67,238 in Vallejo and $6,831 in Sacramento for a total of $74,069 during the service of the federal search warrants.

According to the criminal complaints, the DEA-led investigation uncovered a network of drug distributors working in the Crest neighborhood of Vallejo, along with individuals transporting large quantities of drugs outside of California to realize a larger profit. A number of the subjects of the investigation performed as rappers under the entertainment label known as Thizz Entertainment. The origins of Thizz Entertainment can be traced back to the notorious Vallejo-based robbery crews known as the Romper Room Gang. The primary activities of the Romper Room Gang included armed bank robberies, drug trafficking, and murder. The Romper Room Gang was active throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. However, as a result of Vallejo police investigations with the assistance from federal law enforcement, many Romper Room Gang members were convicted of federal crimes and incarcerated for several years in the state and federal prison systems.

Some of the individuals charged in the criminal complaint are alleged to be former members of the Romper Room Gang. According to the complaint, Thizz Entertainment started in 1999 as a record label promoting and producing rap artists from the San Francisco Bay Area, primarily from the Crest neighborhood of their hometown of Vallejo. The name Thizz Entertainment originates from the term “thizz,” which is slang for the drug MDMA (also known as ecstasy). In many songs by artists on the Thizz Entertainment label, the lyrics glorify and promote the use and distribution of MDMA pills.

The complaint alleges that the targets of this investigation engaged in large-scale drug trafficking while also releasing rap albums under the Thizz Entertainment label. During the conspiracy, agents uncovered trafficking of MDMA, cocaine, cocaine base, heroin, Oxycodone, and marijuana, in violation of federal law. The complaint details drug shipments sent from the Vallejo area to Oklahoma City; Jamaica; Queens, New York; Atlanta; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The following individuals were charged with multiple counts of drug trafficking in the two federal criminal complaints:

Michael Lott, performs under the name “Miami the Most”

*Major Norton, performs under the name “Dubee”

*Lawrence Kennedy Nelson

Gaylord Franklin, performs under the name “Geezy”

Clifford Bullock

*Narco McFarland, Sr.

Latroy Cunningham

*Eric Robinson

Dante Barbarin

*Eileen Knight

Beshiba Cook

Bruce Thurmon, performs under the name “Little Bruce”

Damian Peterson

Mikel Brown

**Nicholas Ramirez

*Ung Duong

*Phat Nguyen

*Marcus Davis

**Tiffany Brown

Andre Cawthorne

*Michael Smiley

*Anthony Young

*Anthony Payton

*Arrested and detained in custody except where noted released.

**Arrested and released.

A preliminary hearing has been set for May 4, 2012.

This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the DEA Sacramento District Office, the Vallejo Police Department, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, and the Sacramento FBI Safe Streets Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Jason Hitt is prosecuting the case.

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.

When prosecuted in federal court, drug traffickers typically receive much harsher sentences. In addition to the longer sentences imposed, unlike state court prisoners who are released early on parole, there is no early release on parole in the federal system.

The charges are only allegations. Each of the defendants listed is presumed innocent, unless and until proven guilty.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


15 Arrests in an Alleged International Online Drug Probe

April 16, 2012

Associated Press on April 16, 2012 released the following:

“By ROBERT JABLON

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A sophisticated online drug marketplace that sold everything from marijuana to mescaline to some 3,000 people around the world has been cracked with the arrests of 15 people in several countries, U.S. authorities announced Monday.

An indictment unsealed in federal court in Los Angeles claims eight men ran “The Farmer’s Market,” which allowed suppliers of drugs – including LSD, Ecstasy and ketamine – to anonymously sell their wares online. They hooked up with buyers in 34 countries and accepted various forms of payment, including cash, Western Union and PayPal transactions, the indictment claims.

From 2007 to 2009 alone, the marketplace processed more than 5,000 orders for drugs valued at more than $1 million, federal officials contended. It began operations as far back as March 2006, authorities said.

The market “provided a controlled substances storefront, order forms, online forums, customer service, and payment methods for the different sources of supply” and charged the suppliers a commission based upon the value of the order, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

“For customers, the operators screened all sources of supply and guaranteed delivery of the illegal drugs,” the statement said.

The alleged ringleader, Dutch citizen Marc Willems, 42, was arrested Monday at his home in Lelystad in the Netherlands, officials said.

Michael Evron, 42, a United States citizen living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was taken into custody on Sunday in Bogota, Colombia, authorities said.

The other six men were arrested at their homes. They are identified as Jonathan Colbeck, 51, of Urbana, Iowa; Brian Colbeck, 47, of Coldwater, Mich.; Ryan Rawls, 31, of Alpharetta, Ga.; Jonathan Dugan, 27, of North Babylon, N.Y.; George Matzek, 20, of Secaucus, N.J.; and Charles Bigras, 37, of Melbourne, Fla.

It was not immediately clear whether the men had obtained lawyers.

The 12-count indictment charges all eight men with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and money laundering conspiracy. Some of the men also are charged with distributing LSD and taking part in a continuing criminal enterprise.

All could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of conspiracy.

In addition, seven other people were arrested on suspicion of drug crimes Monday in the Netherlands, Georgia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and authorities seized hallucinogenic mushrooms, hashish, LSD, marijuana and Ecstasy, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The investigation led to those arrests, but authorities still were trying to determine their connections to the online marketplace, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin S. Rosenberg.

The two-year investigation, dubbed “Operation Adam Bomb, “involved law enforcement agents from several U.S. states and several countries, including Colombia, the Netherlands and Scotland, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The case was filed in Los Angeles because some of the customers and an undercover agent who bought drugs through the marketplace are from the area, Rosenberg said.

“Illegal narcotics trafficking now reaches every corner of our world, including our home computers,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in the statement. “But the reach of the law is just as long. … We want to make the Internet a safe and secure marketplace by rooting out and prosecuting those persons who seek to illegally pervert and exploit that market.”

The marketplace “was distributing dangerous and addictive drugs to every corner of the world, and trying to hide their activities through the use of advanced anonymizing online technology,” said Briane M. Grey, acting special agent in charge of the Los Angeles Field Division for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The marketplace allegedly used the Tor network, which spreads website and email communications through a volunteer network of servers around the world in order to mask Internet address information.

Tor originally was developed at a project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to protect government communications. The free software and open network is used to prevent websites from tracking users, getting access to websites blocked by Internet providers, and providing anonymity for online users and online publishers. It is used by “normal people, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others,” according to the Tor Project website.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Fifteen Individuals Indicted in an Alleged Large-Scale Federal Drug Conspiracy Case

January 11, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 10, 2012 released the following:

“Fifteen individuals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on federal charges, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced. Ms. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso, Drug Enforcement Administration; Special Agent in Charge David McCain, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena, Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.

Indicted were Orlando Ricardo Gordon, 32, of Franklin; Vince Jerome Shivers, 42, of Southfield; Derrick Arnold Terry, 51, of Detroit; Danta Shamu-Parker Johnson, 34, of Detroit; Darren Davon Terry, 35, of Detroit; Trenton Jordan Obamwonyi, 27, of Detroit; Tamiko Mel-Lang Hodo, 36, of Detroit; Anthony Wayne Hall, 46, of Detroit; Anton Jamaill Harris, 32, of Detroit; Ervin Kenneth Vincent, 24, of Inkster; Darnell Darryl Easterling, 48, of Detroit; Courtney Deon Shafi Strickland, 36, of Detroit; Benjamin Isaac Carter, 39, of Detroit; Erik Lee Ross, 34, of Sterling Heights; and Allen Corey Terry, 47, of Farmington Hills.

As alleged in the indictment, the conspiracy lasted for years, dating back to 2008, and involved in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, five kilograms of cocaine, and 280 grams of crack cocaine. Some of the defendants are also charged with being felons illegally possessing firearms. The narcotics trafficking conspiracy carries possible sentences of 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine, and the felon in possession charges carry possible sentences of up to 10 years of prison.

The investigation involved multiple federal agencies, including DEA, ATF, FBI, and IRS. The investigation included seizures of large sums of U.S. currency, including a seizure of more than $500,000 from a residence in Franklin, Michigan, large quantities of drugs, including a seizure of over 1,000 kilograms/2,200 pounds of marijuana, and multiple firearms.

United States Attorney McQuade stated that, “Large-scale drug trafficking and accompanying gun crimes create danger and fear in our neighborhoods. The coordinated efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies helped to dismantle this conspiracy.”

ATF Special Agent in Charge David McCain said, “Narcotics trafficking along with violent firearm activity destroys the families and neighborhoods in our communities. ATF along with its state, local, and federal partners will continue to aggressively pursue those violent individuals and organizations that cripple our communities with crime.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso said, “Today’s arrests are significant. These individuals directed a major marijuana and cocaine trafficking ring that operated throughout southeast Michigan. The dismantling of this organization has halted the flow of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs into metropolitan Detroit. This investigation exemplifies the strong collaborative effort that exists between DEA and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, and is a positive step towards making our community safer for everyone.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena said, “Narcotics trafficking continues to plague this region and directly contributes to violence on our streets. The FBI will continue to partner with federal, state, and local law enforcement to address these issues.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez said, “This indictment illustrates the seriousness behind prosecuting drug trafficking crimes. The role of IRS-CI is to take the profit out of these illegal organizations. Drug dealers pollute our neighborhoods with no regret as their actions are only fueled by greed. The seizure of their illegal proceeds, drugs, and weapons brings us one step closer to justice.”

The Detroit Police Department, the Franklin Police Department, the Troy Police Department, the Novi Police Department, the Warren Police Department, the Michigan State Police, and the U.S. Marshals Service also assisted in the investigation of the case.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


California Dispensaries Moving to Block U.S. Marijuana Crackdown

November 8, 2011

The New York Times on November 7, 2011 released the following:

“By ERIK ECKHOLM

SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers for the medical marijuana industry said on Monday that they would seek court orders to halt a threatened federal crackdown on marijuana dispensaries, their landlords and marijuana growers.

In legal motions to be filed on Tuesday, marijuana distributors and some medical patients will ask federal judges in four districts to issue temporary restraining orders to prevent federal prosecutors from taking action, lawyers and a lobbyist for the industry said at a news conference here on Monday.

“The government’s irrational policy has reached a breaking point,” said Matthew Kumin, one of the lawyers. “The federal government said it will not prosecute patients, and yet they want to shut off their supply. This doesn’t make sense.”

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, though its use is allowed for medical purposes in California and some other states. But federal prosecutors and drug agents say that behind the mask of meeting medical needs, much of California’s burgeoning marijuana industry is engaged in large-scale illegal sales.

In letters sent out in late September, the prosecutors warned numerous dispensaries to shut down or face serious civil or criminal charges, including possible seizure of the property of their landlords. Recipients of letters were given 45 days to halt illegal sales, a period that for many ends on Saturday.

Mr. Kumin said that if a restraining order was not quickly granted by the federal judges, he expected some dispensaries to shut down.

The courts could issue an immediate restraint, schedule hearings on whether to grant a preliminary injunction or deny the requests, which the plaintiffs argue are based on a variety of constitutional and state rights.

Tensions between California and the federal government over medical marijuana have been building since the state became the first to authorize public sales, in 1996. Now, 15 other states and the District of Columbia also allow sales of marijuana to patients with a doctor’s prescription.

A thriving industry of growers and storefront dispensaries has emerged in California that pays substantial sums in state and local taxes, but that federal drug officials see as largely illegal. The Internal Revenue Service has also started a crackdown, denying some sellers the right to deduct marijuana-related business expenses.

Asked to comment on the suits, Benjamin B. Wagner, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of California, issued this statement: “Unless and until ordered otherwise, we will continue to do our duty in enforcing federal narcotics laws.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


76 Arrested as Officials Break Up Mexico-to-Arizona Drug-Smuggling Ring

November 1, 2011
Guns and Drugs Seized from Mexican Drug Cartel

The New York Times on October 31, 2011 released the following:

“By MARC LACEY

PHOENIX — Law enforcement officials on Monday announced the breakup of a large drug-smuggling ring that used lookouts on hilltops in southern Arizona to move huge quantities of marijuana and other drugs across the Mexican border to users throughout the United States.

Over the last month and a half, federal, state and local officials have arrested 76 people, from organizational bosses to stash-house guards to those who transported the drugs in backpacks and in vehicles, the authorities said. All were linked to the Sinaloa cartel run by Joaquín Guzmán, Mexico’s richest and most wanted outlaw, who goes by the nickname El Chapo, officials said.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Arizona officials estimated that the ring had been in operation for at least five years and had generated more than $2 billion in profits by smuggling more than three million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into the United States. Such large smuggling rings usually use tractor-trailers to get their contraband across, the authorities said, but this operation relied mostly on migrants on foot straining under their loads.

The authorities acknowledged that the huge smuggling ring operated under their noses, in rugged terrain that is difficult to patrol. The drugs would be carried across the border in relatively small quantities and then transported north to a network of stash houses in the Phoenix area. From there, the contraband would be sold to distributors nationwide.

The route was through the most desolate desert areas of southern Arizona, from Yuma to just east of the border community of Sells, including the sprawling Tohono O’odham Indian reservation. Spotters with radios or cellphones were used to point out the presence of law enforcement and divert loads, the authorities said.

The investigation began in June of last year with a traffic stop in Pinal County of a suspect who later provided details of the operation, said Sheriff Paul Babeu. Sheriff Babeu, who is considering a run for Congress, cited the arrests to buttress his argument that the border remains porous, despite the Obama administration’s insistence that it was more secure than ever. About half of those arrested were illegal immigrants and the other half were American citizens or holders of valid visas, officials said.

While calling the arrests a blow to the smugglers, the authorities were cautious in declaring victory.

“I expect there will be a shift,” said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of Arizona for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. “One investigation is not going to put them out of business. We have to continually adapt.”

Last month, the authorities were reminded of how challenging the drug war had become when they arrested a Homeland Security official stationed at the border, charging him with leading the police on a chase through the desert during which he hurled packages of marijuana from his government vehicle.

Last week, a federal grand jury in Tucson handed up an indictment charging a Border Patrol agent with accepting a bribe to let a truck that he believed was smuggling drugs and migrants past a checkpoint in southern Arizona, federal officials said. When the agent asked the driver if he was a United States citizen, the driver responded “buenos dias” and was waved through, officials said.

Mr. Guzman has made buying off the Mexican authorities his trademark, which has frustrated efforts to capture him from the mountain hamlets where he operates. President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, who has been criticized for not catching the country’s No. 1 drug lord, recently said he suspected that Mr. Guzman may be hiding in the United States. American officials said they had no evidence to back up that claim.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


9 Indicted for Allegedly Growing Marijuana in Sequoia National Forest

October 21, 2011

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on October 20, 2011 released the following:

“FRESNO, Calif. — Nine central California men have been charged in an eight-count federal indictment handed down Thursday for their role in a large-scale illegal pot growing operation in the Sequoia National Forest. This information was uncovered during a multi-agency probe involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to court documents, the marijuana cultivation site was located in the Sentinel Peak area of the Sequoia National Forest in Tulare County. During the investigation, law enforcement agents seized some 16,000 marijuana plants, more than 850 pounds of processed marijuana, and three firearms, including an assault rifle. Native vegetation was cut to make room for the marijuana plants. Trash and fertilizer containers were scattered throughout the site and a nearby stream.

“The criminal groups involved in these illegal marijuana growing operations have repeatedly shown they have no qualms about using violence against those who get in their way, including unwitting members of the public who are using our state’s wilderness for recreation,” said Michael Toms, the resident agent in charge for ICE HSI in Bakersfield. “Public lands are there for everyone to enjoy, and we’re going to do whatever it takes in concert with our law enforcement partners to prevent harm to visitors and the environment.”

Among those indicted in the case are: Victor Alfonso Madrigal-Cardenas, 24; Jerman Madrigal, 19; Carlos Mendez-Sosa, 30; Juan Luis Quintero-Pimentel, 20; Gauvencio Madrigal-Chavez, 60; all of Delano, Calif. The remaining defendants, Ivan Carrillo, 29; Antonio Morales, 19; Javier Aranda-Barajas, 32; and Aurelio Anaya-Sanchez, 36; are residents of Lamont, Calif. The men are charged with conspiring to cultivate, distribute, and possess marijuana with intent to distribute it, cultivating and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute it, and damaging public lands and natural resources. Mendez-Sosa, Quintero-Pimentel, Aranda-Barajas, and Madrigal-Chavez are also charged with avoidance of examination by immigration officers and are subject to deportation if convicted of the charges. All nine defendants were detained pending trial. Their arraignment is set for Oct. 21.

In addition to ICE HSI, the investigation involved the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), the California Department of Justice Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

The drug charges all carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum term of life in prison and a $10 million fine. If convicted of damaging public land and natural resources, the defendants face a sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum sentence for the immigration offense is six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


California’s Top Federal Law Enforcement Officials Announce Enforcement Actions Against State’s Widespread and Illegal Marijuana Industry

October 10, 2011

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on October 7, 2011 released the following:

“SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The four California-based United States Attorneys today announced coordinated enforcement actions targeting the illegal operations of the commercial marijuana industry in California.

The statewide enforcement effort is aimed at curtailing the large, for-profit marijuana industry that has developed since the passage of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996. That industry has swelled to include numerous drug-trafficking enterprises that operate commercial grow operations, intricate distribution systems and hundreds of marijuana stores across the state — even though the federal Controlled Substances Act makes illegal the sale and distribution of marijuana.

While the four United States Attorneys have tailored enforcement actions to the specific problems in their own districts, the statewide enforcement efforts fall into three main categories:

  • Civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties involved in drug trafficking activity, which includes, in some cases, marijuana sales in violation of local ordinances;
  • Letters of warning to the owners and lienholders of properties where illegal marijuana sales are taking place; and
  • Criminal cases targeting commercial marijuana activities, including arrests over the past two weeks in cases filed in federal courts in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno.

The enforcement actions being announced today are the result of the four United States Attorneys working with federal law enforcement partners and local officials across California to combat commercial marijuana activities that are having the most significant impacts in communities.

“The DEA and our partners are committed to attacking large-scale drug trafficking organizations, including those that attempt to use state or local law to shield their illicit activities from federal law enforcement and prosecution,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that its distribution and sale is a serious crime. It also provides a significant source of revenue for violent gangs and drug organizations. The DEA will not look the other way while these criminal organizations conduct their illicit schemes under the false pretense of legitimate business.”

“The actions taken today in California by our U.S. Attorneys and their law enforcement partners are consistent with the Department’s commitment to enforcing existing federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), in all states,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “The department has maintained that we will not focus our investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with serious illnesses like cancer or their immediate caregivers. However, U.S. Attorneys continue to have the authority to prosecute significant violations of the CSA, and related federal laws.”

Benjamin B. Wagner, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California stated: “Large commercial operations cloak their moneymaking activities in the guise of helping sick people when in fact they are helping themselves. Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously sick people and those who are caring for them. We are making these announcements together today so that the message is absolutely clear that commercial marijuana operations are illegal under federal law, and that we will enforce federal law.”

André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, stated:“The federal enforcement actions are aimed at commercial marijuana operations, including marijuana grows, marijuana stores and mobile delivery services – all illegal activities that generate huge profits. The marijuana industry is controlled by profiteers who distribute marijuana to generate massive and illegal profits.”

Laura E. Duffy, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, commented: “The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick. It’s a pervasive for-profit industry that violates federal law. In addition to damaging our environment, this industry is creating significant negative consequences, in California and throughout the nation. As the number one marijuana producing state in the country, California is exporting not just marijuana but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and perhaps irreparable harm to our youth.”

Melinda Haag, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, said: “Marijuana stores operating in proximity to schools, parks, and other areas where children are present send the wrong message to those in our society who are the most impressionable. In addition, the huge profits generated by these stores, and the value of their inventory, present a danger that the stores will become a magnet for crime, which jeopardizes the safety of nearby children. Although our initial efforts in the Northern District focus on only certain marijuana stores, we will almost certainly be taking action against others. None are immune from action by the federal government.”

Dozens of letters have been sent over the past few days to the owners and lienholders of properties where commercial marijuana stores and grows are located. In the Southern and Eastern Districts, the owners of buildings where marijuana stores operate have received letters warning that they risk losing their property and money derived from renting the space used for marijuana sales. In the Central District, where more than 1,000 stores are currently operating, prosecutors have sent letters to property owners in selected cities where officials have requested federal assistance, and they plan to continue their enforcement actions in other cities as well. In the Northern District, owners and lienholders of marijuana stores operating near schools and other locations where children congregate have been warned that their operations are subject to enhanced penalties and that real property involved in the operations is subject to seizure and forfeiture to the United States.

In the Central District and Eastern District, prosecutors this week filed a total of seven civil forfeiture complaints against properties where landlords are knowingly allowing marijuana stores to operate. One complaint filed against a south Orange County strip mall, for example, alleges that eight of the 11 second-floor suites in the buildings are occupied by marijuana stores and that one small city has spent nearly $600,000 in legal fees in its attempt to eradicate the illegal operations.

Criminal cases recently unsealed across the state reveal marijuana operations that produce huge profits, send their money and illegal narcotics to other states, and market products to young people. In a case involving a now-closed marijuana store in the San Fernando Valley, two conspirators allegedly used encrypted smartphones to coordinate marijuana sales to places as far away as New York and estimated that they would each receive $194,000 in profits per month. In a San Diego dispensary case unsealed last week, six defendants were charged in a 77-count indictment that alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy that included numerous marijuana sales to under-aged persons.

Victor S.O. Song, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation, stated: “IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to work with our law enforcement partners and lend its financial expertise to this effort. We will continue to use the federal asset forfeiture laws to take the profits from criminal enterprises.”

Across California, the federal government will continue to investigate and prosecute those whose actions not only violate federal laws, but also the state laws regarding the use of marijuana. The problems associated with the marijuana business have dramatically increased over the past two years, even in areas where local governments and citizens actively oppose these businesses.

The statewide coordinated enforcement actions were announced this morning at a press conference in Sacramento.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Six Additional Defendants Charged in “Operation Prairie Eagle”

September 30, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on September 29, 2011 released the following:

“PEORIA, IL—A federal grand jury has returned indictments against six additional defendants as a result of “Operation Prairie Eagle,” a cooperative investigation targeting distribution of crack cocaine and marijuana in the Bloomington-Normal area. Fifteen defendants were previously indicted in May 2011.

The charges are the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Springfield Division and the Normal Police Department, with assistance provided by the Bloomington Police Department, the McLean County Sheriff’s Office, the McLean County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois.

Four defendants, Richard George Martin, 32, of Bloomington, Ill.; Shane C. Crawford, 30, of Streator, Ill.; Chad Joseph Graff, 35, also of Streator; and Alex William Guhlstorf, 39, of Normal, are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The one-count indictment alleges the conspiracy began in 2001 and continued to the present and involved more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture of Martin’s bank accounts and cash totaling approximately $107,059.

If convicted, the statutory mandatory minimum penalty for conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana is 10 years to life in prison. If a defendant has one or more prior felony drug convictions, the mandatory minimum penalty is 20 years to life in prison. With two or more prior felony drug convictions, the statutory penalty is life in prison.

In a separate indictment, Kelsie Linea Thirtyacre, 26, currently of Las Vegas, previously of Springfield, Ill., and Julie Lynn Foster, 32, of Cicero, Ill., are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The indictment alleges the conspiracy began in 2001 and continued to Apr. 5, 2011, and involved more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. The women also each face three additional charges of using a telephone in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

If convicted, conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute marijuana carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years to life in prison; if a defendant has one or more prior felony drug convictions, the mandatory minimum penalty is 10 years to life in prison. For using a telephone in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, the penalty is up to four years in prison.

The two indictments were returned yesterday; however, the charges had remained sealed pending the defendants’ arrests and court appearances today. Crawford, Graff, Guhlstorf, and Foster were arrested this morning and appeared in federal court in Peoria this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge John A. Gorman. All were detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending hearings scheduled next week. Foster’s next hearing date is Oct. 6; hearings for Crawford, Graff and Guhlstorf are scheduled on Oct. 7. Martin, who is currently in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, will appear at a later date. Thirtyacre was arrested this morning in Las Vegas, and will make an initial appearance in federal court in Las Vegas.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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