Orange County News
Feds arrest 12 for chain of illegal pots shops in OC, LA
SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Twelve people were arrested on Thursday for involvement in a chain of nine illegal marijuana stores in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
Authorities say the people arrested were among 14 named in an indictment returned last week by a federal grand jury.
According to the indictment, the narcotics-trafficking conspiracy was led by John Melvin Walker, who owned and operated nine marijuana stores: Alternative Herbal Health in Long Beach, Safe Harbor Collective in Dana Point, Garden Grove Alternative Care in Garden Grove, Santa Ana Superior Care in Santa Ana, Belmont Shore Natural Care in Long Beach, Santa Fe Compassionate Health Care in Santa Fe Springs, Costa Mesa Patients Association in Costa Mesa, the Whittier Collective in Whittier, and APCC in San Juan Capistrano.
Most of the stores are now closed, but some are believed to still be in operation, including Belmont Shore Natural Care.
The investigation found that the pot shops generated tens of millions of dollars profit. Safe Harbor Collective allegedly had profits of about $2.4 million in 2009 alone. It is illegal for medical marijuana dispensaries to make a profit.
Walker, a 56-year-old San Clemente resident, allegedly failed to report the income to federal tax authorities, and he allegedly instructed his bookkeeper to "destroy all records pertaining to income generated at the marijuana (stores)."
The charges in the indictment include conspiracy and maintaining drug-involved premises near schools. Walker has also been charged with being a felon in possession of firearms, including a hangun, a 12-gauge shotgun and an AK-47. He was previously convicted on cocaine and marijuana charges.
Along with the weapons, investigators also seized about $390,000 in cash.
The other defendants named in the indictment are:
- Ryan Aparicio Mondragon, 30, of Westminster, who is still at-large
- Danielle Pamela Stebel, 25, of Long Beach
- Nicholas Einar Lattu, 28, of Long Beach, who is still at-large
- Ryan Scott Hunt, 36, of Fullerton
- Perry Brooks Forehand, 33, of Mission Viejo
- Nicholas Martin Butier III, 32, of Lakewood
- Sierra Marina Serhan, 33, of Long Beach
- Alvin Wesley Walker, 29, of Long Beach, who authorities believe is John Walker's nephew
- John Eugene Scandalios, 59, of Lakewood
- Karen Lee Leto, 70, of Huntington Beach
- Craig Lawrence Leto, 49, of Newport Beach, who is Karen Leto's son
- Michael Alan Nixon, 33, of Long Beach
- Alan David Nixon, 59, of Long Beach, who is Michael Nixon's father
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