Marijuana bust: Richard Caleel among group accused of using MMJ as cover for illicit pot ring
North Metro Drug Task Force Commander Jerry Peters has long argued that criminals are abusing Colorado's medical marijuana system -- and now he's got more evidence go back up his contention. The Colorado Attorney General's Office, working with the NMDTF, has just announced a major bust featuring multiple arrests and the seizure of 110 pounds of processed cannabis, nearly 700 plants, assorted firearms and $175,000 in cash.
The indictment, on view below in its entirety, contends that conspirators -- including Richard Caleel, pictured above -- hid behind Colorado's medical marijuana laws. Here's an excerpt:
Between the dates of January 1, 2010, through December 10, 2010, Richard G. Caleel, Lakshman N. Garin, Buck Glanz, Magin Gomez, Micah Krout, and Clayton McCann operated a criminal enterprise in which they collectively cultivated marijuana plants at various locations throughout Northern Colorado. After harvesting these plants, the members of the group then processed and packaged the marijuana for future distribution in Colorado and New Mexico. The members of the group maintained three packets of identical photocopied marijuana registry application records, which they ultized as a "cover" for their wholly illegal operation.
On this page, find photos of seized marijuana and cash, as well as a press release from the Colorado Attorney General's Office summarizing the case. On the next one, check out large mug shots of Caleel and other defendants, as well as the aforementioned indictment:
Colorado Attorney General's Office release:
Attorney General announces indictment of drug-distribution operation that tried to use state medical marijuana system as a cover
DENVER -- Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that his office, in conjunction with the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force, has shut down a marijuana-distribution ring that used state-issued medical marijuana records in an attempt to conceal its distribution of large quantities of marijuana to non-patients in northern Colorado and New Mexico between December 2009 and December 2010.
"This case, while disturbing, should come as no surprise to Coloradans who have been concerned that there is a nexus between Colorado's booming medical marijuana industry and illegal distribution of the drug," Suthers said. "This case counters the contention among marijuana advocates and some public officials that a regulated medical marijuana system will undercut the illicit market for marijuana."
According to the indictment obtained by the Office of the Attorney General, Richard G. Caleel (DOB: 5/18/1976), Lakshman N. Garin (DOB: 1/25/1982), Buck Glanz (DOB: 9/26/1982), Magin Gomez (DOB: 11/2/1980), Micah Krout (DOB: 6/9/1981), Clayton McCann (DOB: 8/1/1982) and Laura Vanwormer (DOB: 9/30/1966) produced the marijuana in Erie, Fort Collins, Longmont and Westminster. According to the indictment, Charles Whitson (DOB: 1/23/1982) and Austin Leard (DOB: 10/21/1981) are suspected of selling the marijuana.
The drug ring is suspected of using packets of photocopied patient records as a cover for their operation. According to the indictment, the grow operations intended to use the records to convince law enforcement they were caregivers acting in compliance with Colorado's medical marijuana laws. Investigators learned that the suspects came to Colorado from New Mexico to use the state's medical marijuana laws as a cover.
"This case reflects a growing trend in Colorado of individuals and organized groups of individuals growing high grade marijuana under the guise of Amendment 20 and blatantly distributing it to anyone willing to pay their price," said Sgt. Gary Shaklee of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force. "As is the case with all drug dealers, this is about greed, plain and simple. Much of the marijuana in this case was knowingly transported out of state where it is resold for as much as $7,000 per pound."
The Northern Colorado Drug Task Force and the Office of the Attorney General seized more than 110 pounds of processed marijuana worth an estimated $375,000, 687marijuana plants, during its investigation as well as nine firearms and $175,000 in cash.
Prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General and the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office will present the case against the defendants in Jefferson County District Court.
Page down to read the indictment and see booking photos.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana seizures up 380%, black market growing, says Commander Jerry Peters."
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