Drug ring posing as caregivers busted in Colorado

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that his office, in conjunction with the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force, has shut down a marijuana-distribution ring that used state-issued medical marijuana records in an attempt to conceal its distribution of marijuana to non-patients in northern Colorado and New Mexico between December 2009 and December 2010.

According to the indictment, “The members of the group maintained three packets of identical photocopied marijuana registry application records, which they utilized as a ‘cover’ for their wholly illegal operation.”

Asked where the suspects got the records, AG spokesperson Mike Saccone said the suspects got the records from patients. He would not say whether the records were stolen from the patients or whether the patients were part of the alleged conspiracy. The records were being used by the alleged conspirators in an effort to convince law enforcement that the suspects were medical marijuana caregivers.

“This is exactly why I filed my original suit in the Supreme Court,” said Kathleen Chippi, who filed suit earlier this week to force changes in medical marijuana record-keeping protocol. “No one is allowed to have these records. I’m pleading with the Supreme Court to hear our case. This is a complete breach of patient confidentiality,” she said.

“This case, while disturbing, should come as no surprise to Coloradans who have been concerned that there is a nexus between Colorado’s booming medical marijuana industry and illegal distribution of the drug,” Suthers said in a press release. “This case counters the contention among marijuana advocates and some public officials that a regulated medical marijuana system will undercut the illicit market for marijuana.”

According to the indictment obtained by the Office of the Attorney General, Richard G. Caleel (DOB: 5/18/1976), Lakshman N. Garin (DOB: 1/25/1982), Buck Glanz (DOB: 9/26/1982), Magin Gomez (DOB: 11/2/1980), Micah Krout (DOB: 6/9/1981), Clayton McCann (DOB: 8/1/1982) and Laura Vanwormer (DOB: 9/30/1966) produced the marijuana in Erie, Fort Collins, Longmont and Westminster. According to the indictment, Charles Whitson (DOB: 1/23/1982) and Austin Leard (DOB: 10/21/1981) are suspected of selling the marijuana.

The Attorney General’s office said the drug ring is suspected of using packets of photocopied patient records as a cover for their operation. According to the indictment, the grow operations intended to use the records to convince law enforcement they were caregivers acting in compliance with Colorado’s medical marijuana laws. Investigators learned that the suspects came to Colorado from New Mexico to use the state’s medical marijuana laws as a cover.

“This case reflects a growing trend in Colorado of individuals and organized groups of individuals growing high grade marijuana under the guise of Amendment 20 and blatantly distributing it to anyone willing to pay their price,” said Sgt. Gary Shaklee of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force. “As is the case with all drug dealers, this is about greed, plain and simple. Much of the marijuana in this case was knowingly transported out of state where it is resold for as much as $7,000 per pound.”

The Northern Colorado Drug Task Force and the Office of the Attorney General seized more than 110 pounds of processed marijuana worth an estimated $375,000, 687 marijuana plants, nine firearms and $175,000 in cash.

Prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office will present the case against the defendants in Jefferson County District Court.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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