Latest Federal Enforcement Actions Against Marijuana Operations Target Illegal Storefronts and Grows in Santa Barbara County
LOS ANGELES – In the latest series of actions against the commercial marijuana industry in California, federal authorities this week filed three asset forfeiture lawsuits against properties housing marijuana operations in Santa Barbara County, executed search warrants at four locations, and have sent warning letters to people associated with 10 other illegal marijuana stores in the county.
Three civil asset forfeiture complaints were filed yesterday afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles against properties in Santa Barbara and Summerland where marijuana is being grown or marijuana stores are currently operating. Prosecutors yesterday also sent letters to marijuana store operators and the owners of buildings where 10 marijuana stores currently operate in Goleta, Summerland and Santa Barbara.
The three forfeiture lawsuits filed this week allege that the owners either knowingly allowed commercial marijuana stores to operate or knowingly allowed a significant indoor marijuana farm to function. The buildings named in the forfeiture lawsuits house:
Miramar Collective on Ortega Hill Road in Summerland, which local authorities estimate was generating annual profits of approximately $840,000 in 2009, and whose owner is currently being prosecuted by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office on state narcotics charges;
Pacific Coast Collective on North Milpas in Santa Barbara, whose operator is currently being prosecuted in state court and, even though called “not for profit,” the business is incorporated and does not have non-profit status for tax purposes (a federal search warrant was executed yesterday at this location and at the residence of its suspected operator); and
an indoor marijuana farm on East Haley in Santa Barbara, where substandard and unpermitted electrical equipment has been used (federal and local authorities executed a federal search warrant today at this property and at the residence of its operator).
In conjunction with the filing of the asset forfeiture complaints, letters were mailed out yesterday to the property owners and operators of 10 additional marijuana stores that are either currently operating or were recently closed – six in Santa Barbara, three in Goleta and one in Summerland.
All known marijuana stores in Santa Barbara County are now the subject of federal enforcement actions.
This week’s enforcement actions in Santa Barbara County follow similar actions in recent months across the seven-county Central District of California. Starting in October 2011, prosecutors began filing asset forfeiture lawsuits and sending letters to marijuana operations in selected areas in Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County and eastern Los Angeles County (see, for example: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/014.html). Seven asset forfeiture complaints – four of which are still pending in United States District Court in Los Angeles – were filed as part of those actions that targeted more than 150 marijuana stores and grows. The majority of those stores are now closed, are the subject of eviction proceedings by landlords, or have been the subject of additional federal enforcement actions.
In October 2011, the four United States Attorneys in California announced coordinated enforcement actions targeting illegal marijuana cultivation and trafficking (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2011/144a.html).
The United States Attorney’s Office is working in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS - Criminal Investigation. The Santa Barbara Police Department assisted federal authorities this week during the execution of federal search warrants.
Release No. 12-056
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