This morning, the manager of Cherry Top Farms dispensary, raided yesterday by the DEA and other agencies, shared his version of the story, including his claim that the center was in compliance with all state regs. There's nothing to contradict this claim in info supplied by the U.S. Attorney's Office. So why did the feds seize 2,500 plants from the MMC? Because they followed a truck there.
The arrestees thus far are Nathan Do, 21, and his father, Ha Do, 48. Also being sought are Ha's brother Hai Do, 44, and Richard Crosse, 48. The four are charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants. The arraignment of Nathan and Ha Do took place at 2 p.m. today. "They're being held pending a detention hearing, which is scheduled for next Wednesday at 10 a.m.," says U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner. "At that hearing, a judge will determine if they're eligible for bond. And that could be a preliminary hearing as well."
Ha, Nathan and Hai Do are all affiliated with Earth's Medicine, a dispensary on Federal Boulevard; Ha is the general manager, Nathan the cultivator and Hai the owner. As for Crosse, he owns at a warehouse 3885 Forrest where the trio installed a grow operation; he also allegedly invested approximately $325,000 in the operation, purchasing the equipment needed and leasing it back to the Do family.
What brought this quartet to the attention of federal authorities? The complaint in the case, on view below, suggests a high degree of cooperation between the DEA and the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Back in June, authorities zeroed in on a Do grow operation on Forrest, with the Denver Police Department grabbing 1,865 plants -- and the complaint's narrative mentions interviews with DOR personnel, who revealed that the location didn't have a current or pending licensing permit to grow there.
When asked if the feds consulted with the Department of Revenue prior to the June raid, Dorschner says he can't comment.
No arrests were executed at that time; the seizure of the plants and equipment appears to have been the primary punishment. But the following month, a source who'd had business dealings with the Do family began providing information to the DEA and Denver Police. This source doubted the legitimacy of their MMJ business, hinting that the suspects were "grossly under-reporting their marijuana proceeds" and siphoning off weed for sale elsewhere. For instance, when the source spotted several large, unpackaged toy boxes, Nathan allegedly said they were being packed with marijuana and shipped to Chicago.
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But something else was just as important to investigators, Dorschner says. "After their equipment was seized and their plants were seized, authorities learned that the Dos and Crosse went right back to the same location" -- that unlicensed, unpermitted 3885 Forrest site -- "and committed the same crime." After further investigation confirmed this situation in the minds of investigators, they made plans to move in. But then, something unexpected happened.
"As the investigating agents were preparing to execute a search and arrest warrant at the warehouse, they noticed that the Dos attempting to move some of their contraband" in a truck, Dorschner says. ""The agents followed the truck that contained the contraband to determine where it was going -- and the truck ultimately ended up at Cherry Top Farms."
Shortly thereafter, "the contraband was off-loaded from the truck into the warehouse of Cherry Top Farms," he continues, "and agents who followed the truck went in to locate the plants that were transported. And when they did, they found themselves in the middle of a substantially larger grow. And once federal agents are in the presence of contraband, even though it was not the primary focus of the investigation, they were required to seize it."
This is the key point from Cherry Top Farms' standpoint. Had the feds decided to overlook the fact that they were in a building full of marijuana, they would have committed a dereliction of duty. While medical marijuana is legal in Colorado, and there was no suggestion Cherry Top Farms had done anything wrong, the DEA agents still were required to take it. And there was a lot -- not just the 2,500 plants, but also all the medicine and edibles for sale.
Dorschner stresses that no business documents -- "the books," in his words -- or any grow equipment from Cherry Top Farms was included in the haul, and no employees were arrested. This implies that the feds aren't interested in shuttering the dispensary. Cherry Top Farms simply appears to have been unfortunate that the Dos chose that day to make a delivery. And this spate of bad luck will cost the operation dearly.
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Full Spectrum Labs shutting doors until state license is issued."