Federal Medical Marijuana Prisoners and Cases

UPDATE 1/18 – Three of Washington’s Kettle Falls Five had their cases vacated and charges dropped. Read more.

1/17 – We got news through Cheri Sicard of www.MarijuanaLiferProject.org that federal prisoner Ricardo Montes is on Obama’s clemency list and will be released in May 2017. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, his co-defendant Luke Scarmazzo’s petition was denied. Luke has already served 10 years and isn’t scheduled for release until 2027. Read more.

Charles Lynch filed an Appropriations Act, 2015 Section 538 Motion to end his prosecution for operating a medical marijuana dispensary in 2006. He is due in court on April 13, 2018 in Los Angeles.

Eddy Lepp was released in December 2016 following eight years of imprisonment.

NEWS:

US Court Records Show Nearly 500 Years in Prison Time for Medical Marijuana Offenses

LAST UPDATED: 2/7/2018

Pending Cases in California and Elsewhere
In Prison
Sentenced or Case Terminated
Died Pending Prosecution
Raided by DEA (partial list)

Current California Defendants and Prisoners:

Patricia Albright
Mark & Ryan Bagdasarian
*Chris Bartkowicz
Geoffrey Bliss
Jennifer Diane Brown
Ron Chang
David Chavez
Dustin Costa
Matthew Davies
Gino DiMatteo
Robert Dodson, Jr
*Robert Duncan
Yan Ebyam
Brian Everett
Kevin Freeman
Dr. Mollie Fry & Dale Schafer
Virgil Grant
Joshua Hester
John Lester Gross III
*James Dale Holland
Thomas and David Jopson
*Charles Kisor
Charles Klaus
Larry Kristich
John & Kelsey Lane
Gary Maddox
*Ricardo Montes
Eddy Lepp
*Abraham & Winslow Norton
Hal Pilotte
*Aaron Sandusky
*Luke Scarmazzo
Bryan Schweder
John Shanks
Aimee Sisco
Steele and Theresa Smith
*Erik Stacy
John Melvin Walker
Amanda Ventura
*Jordan Wirtz
*John Wayne Wyatt
Earl Zuniga

* = currently incarcerated

Pending Cases in California and Elsewhere

  • October 2014 – Federal court in Sacramento was the site of a 5-day hearing on the Schedule I status of marijuana in United States v. Schweder, et. al. Several defendants (among them: Bryan Schweder, Paul Rockwell, Juan Madrigal Olivera, Manuel Madrigal Olivera, Fred W. Holmes, Effren A. Rodriguez, Rafael Camacho-Reyes, and Leonardo Tapia) have served three years in prison awaiting trial, and a seventh, Brian Picard, is out on bail. All are charged in a “conspiracy” involving over 1000 plants grown in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, combined with plants being grown at Pickard and Schweders’ properties. Schweder reportedly operated a 400-bed hospice for veterans in Sherman Oaks. Read more about the testimony regarding marijuana’s Schedule I status. Read court briefs. The judge denied the descheduling motion on April 17, 2015. Read more.

    Other defendants named in the case in a 2011 detention order are: Victorino Betancourt-Meraz, Oseas Carnenas-Tolentino, Juan Cisneros-Vargas, Piliberto Espinosa-Tapia, Homero Lopez-Barron, Karen E. Niemi, Fernando Reyes-Mojica, and Osiel Valencia-Alvarez.

  • July 2014 – Oakland medical marijuana grower Yan Ebyam has struck a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s office. He faced 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine if convicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. If the judge accepts the plea bargain, Ebyam is expected to get between six and eight years in prison. Sentencing is set for October 27, 2015.

    Ebyam was growing in at least two large warehouses: 2,168 plants in Sutter County and 3,105 plants in Sacramento County. He had partnered with the Thomas and David Jopson, known for four generations of hydroponic tomato farming, who rented their greenhouses for the operation. The Jopsons pleaded guilty in February 2014 and were sentenced to one year each in prison on July 29, 2015 and were ordered to surrender themselves on September 24.

    Also, Judge Mendez sentenced Aimee Sisco, 34, of Redding, to 38 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to conspiring to cultivate marijuana with the Jopsons and others.

    Nathan Hoffman, a Los Angeles lawyer representing marijuana dispensaries and an alleged business partner of Ebyam, still faces trial to face money-laundering and conspiracy charges in connection with an alleged scheme to set up multiple growing operations to supply the medical marijuana market.

    Read more here and here, and see background.

  • UPDATE 1/18 – Members of what once was called the Kettle Falls Five – Rhonda Lee Firestack-Harvey, Michelle Lynn Gregg and Roland Mark Gregg – had convictions vacated and charges dismissed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice. Federal prosecutors had asked for the dismissal because of “a cloud of Congress’ suspension of funding authority” to continue with an appeal. Read more and see court ruling.

    UPDATE – On Oct. 2, 2015, three defendants in the Kettle Falls Five case were sentenced to federal prison terms and fines for cultivating as patients under WA’s medical cannabis program. Despite a Congressional restriction on cannabis prosecutions, the DOJ has committed hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to prosecuting and jailing these patients. ASA is asking for immediate orders of commutation and remission of jail time and fines for Rolland Gregg, his wife Michelle Gregg, and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey. Please visit: Pardon the Kettle Falls Five

    UPDATE July 2015 – Jason Zucker, the only member who pleaded guilty to the charges (and gave evidence against the others) was sentenced to 16 months, but will remain free pending an appeal.

    March 2015 – The jury acquitted the three remaining defendants of all but one charge of manufacturing less than 100 marijuana plants. The charge carries no mandatory minimum sentence and defendants Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 56, her son Rolland Gregg, 33, and daughter-in-law Michelle Gregg, 36, remain free until sentencing. Before the trial even began, the federal government agreed to dismiss charges against Larry Harvey, 71, a co-defendant who was recently diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, but the DOJ fought against the dismissal of charges against the remaining defendants. Co-defendant and family friend Jason Zucker, 39, took a plea deal one day before trial began and agreed to testify for the government against the three remaining defendants in exchange for a felony conspiracy conviction and a recommended sentence of 16 months.

    May 2014 – Larry Harvey, a 70-year-old medical marijuana patient with no criminal history, three of his relatives and a family friend each face mandatory minimum sentences of at least 10 years in prison after they were caught growing 68 pot plants on their rural, mountainous property in Washington state. The “Kettle Falls 5” cooperative was raided in August 2012. Read more. (Pictured left: co-defendants Rolland and Michelle Gregg).

    See the Kettle Falls Five website and Facebook page. Donate here.

  • November 21, 2013 – Federal authorities raided more than a dozen marijuana facilities in the Denver metro area, including grow operations north of Boulder and a dispensary in Nederland, as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Read more.

    The rationale for the federal raids in Colorado remains unexplained. If this action was intended to exemplify “tight regulation,” it would have been helpful if the feds had at least explained what particular offense they were aiming to punish. In most regulatory systems, offenders receive an official visit by inspectors, who cite them for specific violations that are typically punished by civil fines or license suspensions. In this case, the feds sent in the usual gang of DEA pirates on criminal search warrants, plundering the victims but refusing to comment on the case. An unenlightening way to enforce federal “law”, whatever that may be. Another example of the out-of-control federal misgovernment that we have sadly come to expect from Washington, DC.

  • October 9, 2013 – SocalPURE was raided by the Vista Sheriff’s Department, ATF, DEA, Homeland Security, the Narcotics Task Force, and the Gang Task Force. Medicine and cash were taken by the heavily-armed force, who handcuffed occupants for over 3 hours.
  • UPDATE October 8, 2013 – The forfeiture case against Jalali has been dropped, along with forfeiture proceedings against three other landlords: Dr. Mark Burcaw, who owns two properties in Santa Ana, including one that currently houses a dispensary, as well as Tom Woo and finally, Walter and Diane Botsch, who stood to lose a property that had been renting to a dispensary in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles.

    August 26, 2013 – Landlord Tony Jalali had no connection to the Releaf Health and Wellness dispensary in Anaheim, and evicted the tenants just days after the property forfeiture case was filed last year, said his attorney, Larry Salzman of the Institute for Justice. U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford urged both sides to hammer out a settlement.

    Federal prosecutors previously offered a deal that would allow Jalali to keep the property, as long as he agrees not to lease any space to medical marijuana dispensaries for the next four years. His attorneys rejected the offer due to “unacceptable provisions,” including random inspections of the building. Under the so-called “equitable sharing” program, Anaheim would collect 80 percent of the proceeds after the building is sold, while the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration would take 20 percent, Salzman said. Jalali would receive nothing. Read more.

    Another Anaheim building the feds have moved to forfeit belongs to a computer engineer and his dentist wife who now stand to lose their $1.5 million retirement investment property over a $37 pot sale. Thanks to a lawsuit filed by that couple, a wealth of emails has surfaced that detail the feds’ quest to rid Anaheim of marijuana dispensaries. Attorney Matthew Pappas alleges the government went for “shock value” in its tactics. Read more.

  • July 13, 2013 – A federal grand jury returned a multi-count indictment charging John Wesley Lane, 33, and Kelsey Ann Lane, 26, both of Anderson, with manufacturing and distributing marijuana, according to a press release issued by the office of US Attorney Benjamin Wagner.

    According to court documents, law enforcement agents executed federal search warrants Dec. 13, 2012 at three properties owned, leased, or associated with the Lanes, including a warehouse on Eastside Road in Anderson; the Lanes’ residence on Nicole Court in Anderson and the California Patients Collective marijuana dispensary on Churn Creek Road in Redding.

    They discovered 2,700 mature marijuana plants and 1,300 marijuana clones and about 40 kilograms of processed marijuana from the warehouse. At the Lanes’ residence they found about 130 pounds of processed marijuana, numerous firearms and $51,860.87 in cash. Nearly 200 marijuana plants, processed marijuana, concentrated cannabis, edible marijuana and $4,673.00 in cash were found at the dispensary in Redding.

    The couple made an initial appearance in court on June 14 and were scheduled for arraignment on July 12. Both defendants face maximum statutory penalties of up to life in prison and statutory mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in prison.

    Read more.

  • June 11, 2013 – Jerry Duval, a Michigan farmer who has a kidney and pancreas transplant, as well as glaucoma and neuropathy, surrendered for a 10-year prison sentence after police, who had approved his 144-plant cooperative garden, raided it and moved to forfeit his property. Duval’s prison term could cost taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million. His son Jeremy Duval is serving a 5-year sentence. Sign a petition for compassionate release for Duval.

    Meanwhile, federal authorities moved to shut down marijuana dispensaries in Echo Park, Westlake, south L.A., the harbor area, Long Beach, Lancaster and Pearblossom. The action so far involves mainly warning letters to most of the 103 storefronts targeted, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. The targeted 71 dispensaries in the city of L.A. involved all remaining known shops in the LAPD’s Rampart, Newton and Harbor divisions, feds said. Source.

    Facing immediate asset forfeiture are two Long Beach dispensaries: The Healing Tree Holistic Association at 3721 East Anaheim Street, and the Naples Wellness Center at 5750 East Second Street.

  • May 7, 2013 – Seven Michigan defendants, including two who are in their 60s, pleaded guilty to federal marijuana charges over an operation that leased grow rooms to six medical marijuana caregivers.

    Dennis Forsberg, 59, of Forsberg Real Estate Co., was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. His son, 32-year-old Lance Forsberg, also was sentenced last month to three years in prison.

    Ryan Basore, 36, who in a proposal for investors estimated the annual return at a half-million dollars, received the most severe penalty — four years in prison. Patrick Karslake, 64, also admitted playing a role. He is serving a one-year prison sentence and was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. The others convicted were: Kyle Corey, 23 his father, Dennis Corey, 65 and Douglas Frakes, 58. Dennis was sentenced to one year in prison, and was sentenced to two years. Frakes was sentenced to one day in prison. Source.

  • On April 18, 2013, federal prosecutors moved against 63 dispensaries in Santa Ana. Prosecutors filed three asset forfeiture lawsuits against properties where seven dispensaries are operating and raided two of the stores involved.

    Forfeiture actions were brought against:

    GLC (or the Green Love Collective and The Dispensary Store, which are operating in a building at 1638 East 17th Street, a property owned by chiropractor Mark Burcaw, and previously have been the subject of administrative citations issued by the city;
    SoCal Compassion, Club Meds and Well Greenz, at 1651 East Edinger, another building owned by Burcaw; and
    J Pacific Life and Healing OC, 1665 East 4th Street, where the raids took place.
    UPDATE 10/8/2013: Forfeiture cases against Burcaw were expected to be dismissed.

    Also, prosecutors sent threatening letters to people associated with 56 other dispensaries. That is every known dispensary in the city. The Santa Ana Police and Santa Ana City Attorney’s Office cooperated with the feds.

    On April 23, the DEA and a local drug task force raided the last dispensary in San Diego and nine associated grow sites. Raided was the One on One Patients Association, whose director, Ken Cole, had testified the previous night at the city council’s hearing on the mayor’s proposed dispensary ordinance. No arrests were made, but marijuana and other items were seized. Cole is also the director of the area dispensary industry group, the United Patients Alliance. Source.

  • March 28, 2013 – John Lester Gross III pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug-involved premises in federal court. According to court documents, Gross helped organize and maintain a marijuana dispensary on P Street in Sacramento. The dispensary was supplied with marijuana grown on Gross’s property in Rough and Ready, which is near Grass Valley. On the property, officers found more than 2,800 marijuana plants and approximately 100 pounds of processed marijuana.

    Gross is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. on June 27, 2013. Gross faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

  • January 13, 2013 – Matthew R. Davies, 34 of Stockton (shown above with his family) was handed a five year mandatory minimum sentence on December 13, 2013. According to the New York Times, federal agents raided two of Mr. Davies’s dispensaries and a warehouse, where 2,000 marijuana plants were grown, in 2011. The federal authorities said they stumbled across the operation after two men were spotted apparently breaking into Mr. Davies’s 30,000-square-foot Stockton warehouse. The police said they smelled marijuana plants. Federal agents conducted a raid and confiscated 1,962 plants and 200 pounds of marijuana.

    Lynn Farrell Smith, 62, of Stockton pleaded guilty in a Sacramento federal court to manufacturing and distribution charges that can send him to federal prison for five years. He was a partner in the venture that included a Stockton marijuana cultivation warehouse and seven dispensaries, including four in Sacramento. Smith was scheduled for sentencing in mid-December 2013 and was expected to get 4 years. A third defendant, Robert Duncan, has been sentenced to two years in prison.

    Also see The Atlantic story on Davies’s bust. and supporters’ website KeepMattFree.com

    MATTHEW ROWAN DAVIES 69005-097
    TAFT CI
    1500 CADET ROAD
    TAFT, CA 93268
    Release Date: 08/09/2018

    Robert Duncan: I’m Going to Prison for Working at a Pot Shop that was Legal in My State and the Free Robert Duncan Facebook page.

  • January 9, 2013 – Former South Lake Tahoe medical marijuana dispensary operator Gino DiMatteo pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, as part of a plea agreement. On August 31, 2012, US agents say they found 5 pounds of processed marijuana and 15 pounds of “shake,” at DeMatteo’s home. Also found were various edible marijuana products, a scale, pay/owe sheets and a heat sealing machine. DiMatteo listed himself as receiving $7,000 biweekly in one of the documents found. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on April 17. The maximum penalty for possession with the intent to distribute marijuana is 30 years in prison. Source.
  • On May 19, 2011 Patricia Albright and her 26-year-old son Jordan Wirtz of Nevada City (pictured above) were indicted by the federal government for growing 89 plants for 10 patients on Albright’s property, which is now the object of a forfeiture action. Albright is facing a prison sentence of 7 1/2 years and Jordan 6 1/2 years. They were scheduled to go to trial on February 3, 2014, but after Sacramento NORML Women’s Alliance and The Human Solution helped arrange an interview on Fox 40 TV news, it was delayed until July 28, 2014.

    Albright’s oldest son Trevor (pictured right) was diagnosed at age 15 months with bi-lateral retinoblastoma (eye cancer). After losing both of his eyes, he developed bone cancer at the age of 8. Medical marijuana, recommended by his doctor, was a great relief in the days before he died. Understandably diagnosed with anxiety, depression and hypervigilance, Albright has a recommendation for medical marijuana, as does Jordan, who has had a dozen broken bones, with steel pins inserted into his humerus to hold his arm together.

    On September 18, 2014, Wirtz pleaded guilty to federal firearms charges. On February 26, 2015, Judge Troy L. Nunley sentenced Wirtz to five years in prison, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. Read more.

    Albright pleaded guilty in July 2015 to conspiring to manufacture marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, and structuring currency transactions to evade federal reporting requirements. She faces a sentence of five years and five months in prison at a hearing before Nunley on December 3, 2015.

    Read a letter Albright wrote to President Obama about her case here and here.

    Albright is looking for donations for her legal defense. Send to: Patricia Albright 5758 Sutton Way #308 Grass Valley, CA 95945.

    JORDAN ROBERT WIRTZ #66095-097
    Lompoc FCI
    3600 GUARD ROAD
    LOMPOC, CA 93436
    Release Date: 03/22/2018

  • December 11, 2012 – Bryan Smith, 28, of Elk Grove, pleaded guilty to federal drug charges stemming from owning and operating the R & R Wellness marijuana dispensary formerly located at 75 Quita Court in Sacramento and growing marijuana related to the dispensary operation. On May 25, 2013 he was sentenced to 6 years. See: Files on cooperating federal defendants often sealed, Sacramento case shows

    Smith is the last defendant to plead guilty in the case. Co-defendants Daniel Goldsmith, 27, Galt- Elk Grove; Robert Klaus, 36, San Diego; Ryder Phillips, 27, Galt; Kelly Smith, 55, Elk Grove and Bruce Goldsmith, 61.

    All are pending sentencing. Read more.

  • October 25, 2012 – The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the arrests of 12 people associated with a chain of pot shops in Southern California.

    John Melvin Walker allegedly operated 9 dispensaries in L.A. and Orange counties; he’s been charged with failure to report taxable income, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and maintaining a drug location near schools. The suspect, who had previously been convicted of cocaine and pot charges, was also allegedly in possession of an AK-47 and shotgun.

    Defendants, according to the feds, include:

    -John Melvin Walker, also knows an “Pops,” 56, of San Clemente, the owner/operator of the nine marijuana stores;
    Ryan Aparicio Mondragon, 30, Westminster, who managed Santa Ana Superior Care;
    Danielle Pamela Stebel, also known as “Mob Queen,” 25, of Long Beach, who helped manage Belmont Shore Natural Care;
    Nicholas Einar Lattu, also known as “Dragon 6,” 28, of Long Beach, who owned Shadow Ops Security, a company that provided security services to the marijuana stores, and who is currently being sought by authorities;
    Ryan Scott Hunt, 36, of Fullerton, who managed Garden Grove Alternative Care;
    Perry Brooks Forehand, also known as “Bucky,” 33, of Mission Viejo, the manager of Safe Harbor Collective;
    Nicholas Martin Butier III, 32, of Lakewood, who was the manager of Alternative Herbal Health;
    Sierra Marina Serhan, also known as “Happy Chick,” 33, of Long Beach, who helped manage Belmont Shore Natural Care;
    Alvin Wesley Walker, 29, of Long Beach, who is believed to be John Walker’s nephew and who helped manage Belmont Shore Natural Care;
    John Eugene Scandalios, 59, of Lakewood, who allegedly supplied marijuana to Santa Fe Compassionate Health Care;
    Karen Lee Leto, 70, of Huntington Beach, who allegedly helped manage Costa Mesa Patients Association;
    Craig Lawrence Leto, 49, of Newport Beach who is Karen Leto’s son and who allegedly helped manage Costa Mesa Patients Association;
    Michael Alan Nixon, 33, of Long Beach, who allegedly supplied marijuana to Santa Fe Compassionate Health Care;
    Alan David Nixon, 59, of Long Beach, who is Michael Nixon’s father and who allegedly managed Santa Fe Compassionate Health Care.

    All of the above are charged with conspiracy. They were arraigned on 10/26 in Orange County.

    Source.

    UPDATE 4/1/13: Walker pleaded guilty to two felony counts: conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and tax evasion. He must forfeit more than $25 million in assets, cash and business interests — including his Tuscan manor high above the Pacific in San Clemente, two homes in Long Beach and four mob

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