Nine marijuana dispensaries around Los Angeles and Orange County were set up to appear to be operated by different owners. However, they were secretly owned by a convicted drug-dealer who used the stores to make millions.
John Melvin Walker, who operated the marijuana stores, is expected to plead guilty to drug and tax evasion charges after his arrest in October, 2012.
Federal drug agents said he was one of the major players that they have prosecuted in Southern California’s medical marijuana business. He is scheduled to appear in the United States Federal Court in Santa Ana and plead guilty to two federal offenses, conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and tax evasion. He will also have to forfeit over $25 million in assets, that include cash, his house in San Clemente, mobile homes in Mammoth. There is also the possibility he will have to pay over $4 million in tax restitution.
He is facing 10 years to life in prison, but federal prosecutors have said the guidelines are set for around 21 to 27 years in prison.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department began the criminal investigation and were assisted by federal agents. The case was presented to the U.S. attorney because federal penalties are more severe. Also, federal law considers all marijuana possession illegal. In this way, they could avoid the vague California’s medical cannabis laws, which do not address whether commercial sales of marijuana are legal.
At one marijuana store, police found spreadsheets that showed that over a one year period, there was a total of about $3 million in transactions, and almost $2.5 million cash on hand.
When detectives initially searched his properties, they were stunned by the amount of cash. At one location in Long Beach, they discovered over $390,000.00 in four grocery bags in his garage. They also found a shotgun, a Beretta handgun and an AK-47 with a bayonet. At another house, they discovered stacks of cash stuffed in furniture, totaling over $700,000.
The federal indictment says he failed to report any income from the marijuana shops to the IRS and even instructed his bookkeeper to destroy all records related to the income received from his dispensaries.
If you are facing federal drug conspiracy charges, you need to consult with a criminal defense lawyer at the Goldstein Law Offices to get an understanding of the charges and learn how we can help you. If you choose to work with our law firm, we will use our vast experience to build a strong legal defense on your behalf. Although federal criminal charges are more complex than charges in a local state court, our Los Angeles defense attorneys have the necessary knowledge to provide you with aggressive legal counsel.