News and Press Releases

California Man Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison for Conspiring to Distribute Approximately Nine Kilos of Marijuana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 24, 2011

Las Vegas, Nev. – An L.A. man has been sentenced to 21 months in prison and three years of supervised release for his guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute approximately nine kilos of marijuana, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

John Allen Youngblood, 41, of Los Angeles, was sentenced on Friday, October 21, 2011, by Senior U.S. District Judge Lloyd D. George. Youngblood and five others, John Birmele, Kelly Birmele, Laura Rhoades, Timothy Hough, and Michel Ellsworth, were originally charged in January of this year in relation to the distribution of marijuana through the operation of storefront "medical marijuana" businesses. All five have pleaded guilty to felony drug distribution or money laundering offenses.

According to Youngblood's guilty plea agreement, on about September 8, 2010, he conspired with the four co-defendants to distribute marijuana in return for money and other compensation. The marijuana sales were made through purported "medical marijuana" dispensaries in Las Vegas, including, "The Happiness Consultants (THC)" at 810 E. Sahara Avenue and "The Happiness Consultants II (THC II)" at 6822 W. Cheyenne Avenue. On September 8, 2010, law enforcement officials executed a federal search warrant at THC II. Youngblood was in the process of off-loading bags of marijuana from his white Lexus parked behind the dispensary. The hatchback of the Lexus was open and numerous bags and prescription pill bottles were in plain view to the law enforcement officials.

Officials seized approximately nine kilos of marijuana during the search and about $48,000 in cash from Youngblood's Lexus. Youngblood must forfeit the money confiscated from his Lexus, as well as two handguns recovered from inside the dispensary. Youngblood has three prior felony convictions in California.

In December 2010, 10 other persons were also charged with distributing marijuana through the operation of storefront "medical marijuana" businesses. All of those defendants have also pleaded guilty to felony offenses related to the distribution of marijuana and/or money laundering. Businesses named in those cases include, THC, the Nevada Compassionate Center, Dr. Reefer, LV Fingerprinting, and Organic Releaf.

The government alleged in all of the cases that at the time when the cases were charged, purported "medical marijuana" dispensaries were being established throughout Nevada with increasing frequency, and that the dispensaries were actually just storefront businesses operating to illegally sell marijuana for profit. Storefront marijuana dispensaries are not recognized under Nevada law, and it is illegal to sell "medical marijuana" in Nevada. The dispensaries frequently seek protection under Nevada law by claiming they are primary caregivers to medical marijuana patients; however, they do not "consistently assume responsibility for the housing, health, or safety" of their customers as a primary caregiver is required to do under state law. The dispensaries also typically acquire the marijuana they sell from third-party vendors, and there is no state law in Nevada that allows for the production and sale of marijuana from third-party vendors to dispensaries. Additionally, dispensaries often claim that they are requiring "donations" rather than compensation in return for marijuana, in an effort to conceal the unlawful nature of their business.

The investigations continue. They are being conducted as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. Specific agencies investigating the cases are the DEA, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, IRS Criminal Investigation, the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and North Las Vegas Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Bradley W. Giles and Kishan Nair are prosecuting the cases on behalf of the United States.

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