CBD products are touted for their healing properties. But even they would have a hard time mending the rift that's torn apart a Colorado CBD company, which has dissolved amid dueling lawsuits, with one alleging a scheme to funnel more than $1 million to an animal sanctuary in Costa Rica and the other focusing on $300,000 in missing meds and a series of accused co-conspirators, one of whom is named Natalia Swindler.
At the center of this drama is John Merritt, the man behind Full Spectrum Nutrition Inc., a Colorado Springs operation that's currently in limbo.
"The company has basically done no business since December," notes Merritt's attorney, Henry Baskerville. "We believe his former investors took all the product and have been selling it under their own companies."
Merritt's answer to the original suit, which encompasses a counterclaim against the aforementioned investors, Josse Mazo and Maritza Riascos, is accessible below. But here's how Baskerville lays out his client's case.
"John started Full Spectrum Nutrition LLC with the idea of selling CBD, which is all the rage these days," Baskerville notes. "These Florida doctors" — Mazo and Riascos — "were wholesale purchasers from John, and at some point, they decided they were going to go into business with him. That's when he started a company called Full Spectrum Nutrition Inc., as opposed to the LLC, with the idea of getting a supply contract from a company in Colorado Springs called Folium Bioscience and selling CBDs through FSN Inc."
Mazo and Riascos invested in the company, "but at some point, there was a blow-up with some of the employees," he continues. "A bunch of them were living in a house together, and two of them, Bryan Ferraro and Natalia Swindler, were dating. And then they decided to stage a coup."
By the way, Swindler, who's also known as Natalia Radziuk, created a series of YouTube videos under the name "Naughty Natalia" — though there's nothing particularly naughty about them.
The trigger appears to have been a dispute with Ferraro, whom Baskerville describes as "an employee and also an investor in Full Spectrum Nutrition Inc. John was at a trade show with Ferraro in Colombia, and he sent him home because he was disruptive and using drugs. And at the same time, John fired Swindler, Ferraro's girlfriend. These events kind of galvanized the conspirators, but it's unclear if they approached the doctors or if they'd been involved since the beginning. But they decided to kick John out of his own company and took steps to take it away from him."
How so? According to Baskerville, "They voted him out of both Full Spectrum Nutrition Inc. and the LLC, looted the facility of all the products — a little under $300,000 worth went missing — and each started their own separate companies, a number of them using a similar name. The doctors started a company called Full Spectrum Nutrition INT Inc. and Ferraro started Ubiquitous Asset Group LLC, but it did business as Full Spectrum PCR — the 'PCR' stands for 'Phytocannabinoid Rich,' which is an industry buzzword."
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The counterclaim maintains that "the reason they adopted these strikingly similar names was so they could cash checks written to Full Spectrum Nutrition," Baskerville says. "They also caused unauthorized transfers of cash out of the company's bank accounts and basically left the company as a worthless shell. And then, as a coup de grâce, they sued John in federal court this past April, saying that the Full Spectrum companies were a huge scam to funnel money" — specifically, their $1.1 million investment — "to his charity in Costa Rica."
That operation, iRescue Costa Rica, "is a 501(c)3 that John had long before he started Full Spectrum," Baskerville allows. "It was founded in 2005 and is dedicated to caring for wildlife in Costa Rica, which is John's passion — and even though their lawsuit makes it seem like iRescue was some sort of secret, these people knew all about it, and bank records show that their allegations are incorrect. These two things don't really have anything to do with each other."
Also part of this twisted web is what Baskerville describes as "a whistleblower who discovered there were some financial improprieties that he thought were the result of Ferraro and Swindler. He brought the information to the attention of Dr. Mazo, who asked him to keep quiet because he needed Ferraro's help in taking over the company. But at some point, the whistleblower decided to take it to John, and that's when things started unraveling."
The counterclaim asserts claims under both state and federal racketeering statutes, as well as civil theft. Click to get the details in Dr. Josse Mazo, et al, v. John Merritt, et al.