Medical marijuana: Nathan Do, target in Cherry Top Farms raid, killed in crash

One of the stranger marijuana stories of last year involved a federal raid on Cherry Top Farms dispensary -- one not prompted by an investigation into the center, but due to the targeting of Nathan Do, a man associated with a different MMC, who agents were following. Nathan, along with family members Ha Do and Hai Do, were ready to plead in the case, but that won't be happening for him now: He was killed this week in a motorcycle crash. [jump]

As we've previously reported, law enforcers from the DEA and other agencies raided Cherry Top Farms on October 13, seizing 2,500 plants and shutting down the dispensary, which never reopened. However, none of Cherry Top's personnel were busted or charged with wrongdoing.

The same could not be said of Nathan, 21 at the time of the arrest (he was 22 when he died), and his father, Ha Do, then 48. They were both fitted with cuffs that day, with Ha's brother Hai Do and Richard Crosse, respectively 44 and 48 as of last October, following suit. The four were charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants.

The Dos were all affiliated with Earth's Medicine, a dispensary on Federal Boulevard; Ha was the general manager, Nathan the cultivator and Hai the owner. As for Crosse, he owned a warehouse at 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, suggested 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 shut down 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.

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.

But something else was just as important to investigators, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner told us last year that "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.

Page down to continue reading about Nathan Do and the Cherry Top Farms raid. "As the investigating agents were preparing to execute a search and arrest warrant at the warehouse, they noticed that the Dos were attempting to move some of their contraband" in a truck, Dorschner said. "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," Dorschner continued, "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."

In other words, 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.

On October 14, Cherry Top Farms tweeted that the business would be open again soon, but that proved much too optimistic; assorted efforts to restart the business failed. Meanwhile, prosecutors went after the Dos, and earlier this month, the trio reportedly filed a notice of disposition, indicating that they'd reached a deal with prosecutors and wanted to set a hearing to plead guilty.

According to Dorschner, corresponding via e-mail today, this was the situation when Do, piloting a motorcycle, got into a collision with another vehicle on the 4200 block of East Evans Avenue. The Denver coroner's office notes that Do was transported to Swedish Medical Center but failed to respond to treatment and was pronounced dead.

Presumably, the notice of disposition against Ha and Hai Do will move forward -- but only after the most brutal twist yet in a tale filled with them.

Look below to read the complaint against the Dos.

Do Complaint

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts