Officers remove evidence from VIP Cannabis in Denver, November 21, 2013. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file photo)
Federal prosecutors have indicted four men on allegations that they funneled and laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars from Colombia to buy a warehouse in Denver for marijuana cultivation.
The charges, unsealed Monday, are the latest outcome of major Drug Enforcement Administration raids on the Colorado medical-marijuana industry last year.
Two people who are among the owners of the more than one dozen raided businesses — 48-year-old David Furtado and 28-year-old Luis Uribe — appeared in court Monday to hear they have been indicted on charges of money laundering and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. The most serious of the charges carries up to 20 years in prison.
A third owner, 33-year-old Gerardo Uribe, has also been indicted but not arrested. Federal prosecutors consider him a fugitive from justice.
Hector Diaz, a Colombian national who was previously the only person arrested in connection with the raids, was also indicted on charges of money laundering, illegal firearm possession and making a false statement to authorities.
Further details of the case were not revealed at a brief afternoon court hearing Monday. Furtado and Luis Uribe, both wearing the gray T-shirts and casual slacks they were apparently wearing when they were arrested Friday, said nothing other than to tell federal magistrate judge Boyd Boland that they understood their rights.
Boland on Monday ordered that the new indictment be unsealed, but it was not yet available Monday afternoon.
However, in a statement from the Colorado U.S. attorney’s office, prosecutors say the case involves allegations of complicated transfers of money from banks in Colombia and Colorado to buy a warehouse for marijuana cultivation and to fund a marijuana-distribution operation.
Suspect Hector Diaz is shown wearing a DEA baseball cap and holding up two authentic-looking semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, one in each hand. Diaz also appears to have two additional handguns stuck inside the front of his pants. (U.S. Attorney’s Office.)
According to the statement, Diaz, Furtado and Gerardo Uribe are accused of transferring $424,000 from Colombia to a Wells Fargo bank account in the name of Colorado West Metal. The company, which lists Furtado, an attorney, as its registered agent in state records, was set up by Diaz. Diaz’s attorney has previously said Diaz owns a metal company in Colorado that makes concertina wire, a type of coiled barbed wire most frequently seen atop prison walls.
Prosecutors, however, say the money was used to purchase a warehouse at 5200 E. Smith Road in Denver to grow marijuana. According to the prosecution statement, the money also is alleged to have flowed through trust accounts held by Furtado’s law firm.
Luis and Gerardo Uribe, who are brothers, owned interests in a number of Colorado medical-marijuana stores and cultivation facilities — most prominently VIP Cannabis at South Federal Boulevard and West Alameda Avenue. Furtado, who often represents them, also had an ownership stake in Grateful Meds dispensary in Nederland.
State regulators recently moved to close the stores, noting numerous compliance violations in the officials notices of denial.
The November raids were the largest ever to hit Colorado’s medical-marijuana industry, and federal agents seized millions of dollars worth of marijuana during the operation. Those listed as targets of the raid in a federal search warrant have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and said all their actions were legal under Colorado laws governing marijuana stores.
It is unclear from prosecutors’ statement whether they are alleging marijuana from the warehouse on Smith Road was intended to be sold through the defendants’ medical-marijuana businesses or the black market.
Furtado and Luis Uribe, both of whom were arrested Friday and initially booked into Denver’s Downtown Detention Center, were ordered held at least until Thursday, when prosecutors will announce whether they want to hold the pair longer without bond. More details about the case could be revealed then.
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, [email protected] or twitter.com/john_ingold
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