Last year, we told you about charges against Hector Diaz related to gun possession and his complicity in allegedly dropping $500,000 in Colombian cash in the Colorado marijuana business.
Now, Diaz has pleaded guilty to a couple of counts — fewer than the number he originally faced.
In exchange, Diaz is expected to testify against his accused co-conspirators, Denver attorney David Furtado and brothers Gerardo and Luis Uribe, all three of whom have pleaded not-guilty of the charges against them.
The roots of the story can be traced back to November 2013, when we covered marijuana raids conducted at multiple cannabis businesses, including VIP Wellness, by law enforcers from the DEA, IRS and Denver Police Department.
Following the raids, the U.S. Attorney's Office put out the following statement: "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, as we reported, more information filtered out about Furtado and the Uribes.
Prosecutors maintain that in 2013, 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 was 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 maintained.
A reminder: While marijuana businesses are legal in Colorado when owners follow state regulations, they remain prohibited under the federal system.
The feds alleged 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.
Diaz was also hit for possession of firearms — something he fought in court circa March 2014. Back then, an attorney argued that Diaz 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.
As of April 2014, the U.S. Attorney's Office broke 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.
This week, however, Diaz pleaded guilty to only two charges: "one count of visa fraud committed in facilitation of a drug trafficking crime and one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana," the U.S. Attorney's Office notes.
There's still plenty of jail time associated with these beefs. The former could net Diaz not more than twenty years in federal prison and as much as a $250,000 fine. The second's maximum is five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
Nonetheless, CBS4 reports that Diaz was smiling after exiting the courtroom where he entered his guilty pleas yesterday. The station adds that he's expected to testify against Furtado and the Uribes — which is presumably one of the reasons why the feds agreed to settle for less in Diaz's case.
Look below to see the CBS4 piece on the latest developments, followed by Diaz's plea agreement, which includes a narrative of events involving him and his former associates.
Update: On prosecutor's motion, the indictment against attorney Furtado was dismissed without prejudice on September 27, 2016.
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