Last November, we told you about marijuana raids conducted at multiple cannabis businesses, including VIP Wellness — which (update) was reportedly raided again yesterday — by law enforcers from the DEA, IRS and Denver Police Department.
This morning, Hector Diaz, a 49-year-old from Colombia, is due in court to be formally advised of the charges against him related to the sweep — including dropping more than $500,000 on the Colorado pot industry and weapons beefs he considers to be unconstitutional. Photos, videos and more below.
In November, the U.S. Attorney's Office put out the following statement about the raids: ""The Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, the Denver Police Department and state and local law enforcement are today executing lawfully obtained search warrants and seizure warrants."
In the aftermath of this announcement, more information filtered out about the targets of the raid: Diaz, as well as Luis Uribe, 28, Gerardo Uribe, 33, and Denver attorney David Furtado, 48, who has publicly stated that the quartet has no connection to South American drug cartels and aren't drug traffickers.
The U.S. Attorney's Office tells a different tale, based on a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on April 22; the document has been unsealed but hasn't been formally released at this writing.
In 2013, prosecutors maintain that Gerardo Uribe filed documents locally to incorporate a firm with a name that hardly smacks of pot: Colorado West Metal, LLC. The registered agent in the transaction was Furtado, while Diaz was listed as the "person responsible for forming the corporation."
Around this time, Furtado is said to have facilitated the purchase of a property on Smith Road using "$449,980 in U.S. currency" representing "proceeds of specified unlawful activity, namely the cultivation and sale of marijuana, as derived through the operation of the VIP Wellness Center, operated by Gerardo Uribe, Luis Uribe and others," the U.S. Attorney's Office maintains.
A reminder: While marijuana businesses are legal in Colorado when owners follow state regulations, they remain prohibited under the federal system.
The indictment also alleges that Diaz, Furtado and Gerardo Uribe transferred $424,000 from a bank in Colombia to Colorado West Metal, with additional transfers of $100,000 and $20,000 following. The intent, the feds believe, was to "promote the cultivation, manufacture and distribution of marijuana."
In the view of the U.S. Attorney's Office, this last action constitutes money laundering.
Continue for more about the pending court appearance of Hector Diaz, including multiple videos and documents.
The feds are also hitting Diaz for possession of firearms — something he's already fought in court. Last month, an attorney representing Diaz argued that he was exercising his Second Amendment rights via his ownership of gats of the sort he's seen posing with in the widely circulated photo at the top of this post.
The U.S. Attorney's Office breaks down the assorted charges against the men as follows:
In the superseding indictment, Hector Diaz is named in counts one, two, three and four. David Furtado is named in counts three, four, five, six and seven. Luis Uribe is named in counts three and seven. Gerardo Uribe is named in counts three, four and seven.
Count one is possession of a firearm by a prohibited possessor. If convicted, the defendant faces not more than 10 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine. Count two is false statements with respect to a material fact. If convicted, the defendant faces not more than 20 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine. Count three is conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, the defendants face not more than 20 years imprisonment, and a $500,000 fine (or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater). Count four is money laundering and aiding and abetting the same. If convicted, the defendants face not more than 20 years imprisonment, and a $500,000 fine (or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater). Counts five and six are money laundering and aiding and abetting the same. If convicted, the defendants face not more than 20 years imprisonment, and a $500,000 fine (or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater). Count seven is engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. If convicted, the defendants face not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.
At 9 a.m. this morning, Diaz is scheduled to step before U.S. Magistrate Judge Boyd Boland to be advised of the charges in the superseding indictment and be re-arraigned. He's free on $25,000 bond but is being monitored by GPS.
Furtado is scheduled for a dentention hearing and arraignment before Boland tomorrow, as is Luis Uribe. And Gerardo Uribe? He's described as "at large and is considered a fugitive from justice."
Here's a 7News clip about the latest developments, a 9News piece in which Furtado denies ties to Colombian drug cartels and three documents: the criminal complaint against Diaz, a raid-related search warrant (note: it's upside-down) and a November letter from attorney Sean McAllister on behalf of Gerardo Uribe.
Update: On prosecutor's motion, the indictment against attorney Furtado was dismissed without prejudice on September 27, 2016.
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More from our Marijuana archive circa November 2013: "Multiple marijuana businesses being raided by DEA, IRS, Denver cops."