John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
Law-enforcement officers ripped out more than 4,000 marijuana plants Thursday during a raid of a grove south of Fresno, the latest large-scale bust in the growing trend of pot farms on the Valley floor.
Thursday's operation, which began about 6:40 a.m., was prompted by neighbor complaints about the grove – estimated to cover about 20 acres – near the northwest corner of Central and Valentine avenues, said John Donnelly, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent.
Some of the marijuana plants were more than 12 feet high, he said. Medical marijuana recommendation letters from physicians were posted at the grove.
A federal warrant was served Thursday morning to people living on the property in tents and makeshift structures, though no arrests were made, Donnelly said.
The DEA recently denied a 2002 petition filed by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) to institute proceedings to determine whether marijuana should be reclassified from a federal schedule I controlled substance to a lesser classification that would permit it to be used for medical purposes. ASA Rescheduling Background. Thanks to Talk Left, here's the original petition, ASA's federal lawsuit to force the DEA to rule on the petition, and the DEA's decision, which was published in yesterday's Federal Register, in pdf and text versions. ASA say they will now appeal to the D.C. Circuit.
In the latest chapter on the ATF gun smuggling to Mexican cartel scandal, see How Could Anyone Have Thought This Was a Good Idea?(part 1) and (part 2), today's LA Times reports that the head of the ATF is attempting to shift some of the blame to other federal agencies:
The embattled head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has told congressional investigators that some Mexican drug cartel figures targeted by his agency in a gun-trafficking investigation were paid informants for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.
Kenneth E. Melson, ATF's acting director, has been under pressure to resign after the agency allowed guns to be purchased in the United States in hopes they would be traced to cartel leaders. Under the gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious, the ATF lost track of the guns, and many were found at the scene of crimes in Mexico, as well as two that were recovered near Nogales, Ariz., where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed.
In two days of meetings with congressional investigators over the weekend, Melson said the FBI and DEA kept the ATF "in the dark" about their relationships with the cartel informants. If ATF agents had known of the relationships, the agency might have ended the investigation much earlier, he said.
As a result of Melson's statements, "our investigation has clearly expanded," a source close to the congressional investigation said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing. "We know now it was not something limited to just a small group of ATF agents in Arizona."
A prescription drug scam visited upon a pharmacy chain in Fair Oaks has gone federal, Sacramento County sheriff's officials said.
Last Thursday evening, sheriff's deputies said they arrested three men on suspicion of obtaining at least two fake prescription orders from the CVS Pharmacy at 5420 Dewey Dr.
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Sheriff's department spokesman Dep. Jason Ramos said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's involvement raised the case's status to "a continuing federal investigation" and that he would have to "refrain from divulging certain things in the interest of protecting the integrity of their case."
"As of today, the Drug Enforcement Agency has banned 'fake pot' substances, which use chemicals to purportedly replicate the effects of marijuana. Those substances had been in a legal limbo, with many states lacking laws to deal with them." NPR.org, 3/2/11. Here's the 3/1/11 DEA Final Order making the 5 synthetic marijuana substances banned, Schedule I controlled substances under federal law.
Drug-enforcement agents arrested eight men and seized 2,804 marijuana plants for destruction Monday at an alleged longstanding pot-growing and distribution operation in Rough and Ready, Nevada County. Law enforcement officials linked the pot ring to a Sacramento cannabis club.
The federal search warrant was served at a home in the 11000 block of Glen Loop following a two-year joint investigation by Nevada County, state and federal agents, county Sheriff Keith Royal said in a news release. . . .
While officers were at the scene, John Gross III, 46, Rough and Ready, arrived and was also arrested for alleged involvement in the operation, the release states.
"Mr. Gross III is affiliated with the P Street Cannabis Club out of Sacramento and admitted to agents that the marijuana was being grown and sold to several patients from the club...," Royal said in the release.
Seven Sacramento-area residents were arrested this week as a result of two indoor marijuana growing investigations by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Elk Grove Police Department.
The two-day enforcement operation resulted in seizure of six indoor operations, more than 4,300 plants, approximately $82,600 in U.S. Currency and one vehicle, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration news release.
In November 2009, the Elk Grove Police Department and the DEA's Sacramento District Office identified a suspected marijuana cultivator, Tac Che, 50, of Sacramento. According to the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, law enforcement officers learned of several residences with suspected indoor marijuana grows that were linked to Che. Based on the investigation, officers believed power theft was occurring at many of the grow sites.
An unhappy federal judge on Tuesday approved a $3 million settlement with a former narcotics officer who said the CIA spied on him overseas.
The approved settlement caps a 16-year fight for Clovis attorney Brian Leighton and former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Richard A. Horn. It also leaves the judge grumbling over how the government handled the long-secret case.
"It does not appear that any government officials have been held accountable for this loss to the taxpayer," U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth wrote. "This is troubling."
Professional Asbestos Removal Corporation, also known as PARC Environmental, pleaded guilty this morning before Chief United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii to making a false statement in a uniform hazardous waste manifest in violation of the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which governs the safe handling and storage of hazardous materials, including hazardous waste found at clandestine drug labs.
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According to Assistant United States Attorney Marlon Cobar, who prosecuted the case, during sentencing, which immediately followed PARC Environmental’s guilty plea this morning, Chief Judge Ishii imposed a criminal fine of $250,000 on the company and ordered it to pay DTSC $177,235.82 for investigative costs. PARC Environmental paid all of the ordered restitution this morning and will pay the fine, in full, within the next four months.
Chief Judge Ishii also sentenced PARC Environmental to three years of probation with special conditions contained in a strict corporate regulatory compliance program to be monitored by DTSC. The company is a leading provider of clandestine drug lab cleanup services to California law enforcement, and has already begun taking corrective measures in its operations.
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On June 18, 2008, under a standing contract with DEA, PARC Environmental responded to a clandestine drug lab cleanup site in San Francisco. With the explicit authorization of at least one of its managers, PARC Environmental falsely and fraudulently listed the name of an employee on a Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest representing that the employee had been working at the San Francisco clandestine drug lab on June 18, 2008. Thereafter, PARC Environmental filed, maintained and used the false Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest for purposes of compliance with Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulations. However, another employee, Jeffrey Alexander Lassotovitch , had been working at the cleanup site under the name of another employee. In fact, Lassotovitch was not authorized to work on DEA clandestine drug lab cleanups.
On August 27, 2008, DEA agents executed a federal search warrant at Lassotovitch’s home in Fresno and discovered that he was in possession of approximately 12 gallons of GHB which he had unlawfully taken from the DEA drug lab clean-up site in San Francisco on June 18, 2008, in order to distribute it. That was the same site in which Lassotovitch was not authorized to work, but where PARC Environmental falsely stated in a Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest that he was another employee authorized to do so. In a separate case arising out of this investigation, on November 9, 2009, Chief Judge Ishii sentenced Lassotovitch to 37 months in prison for his conviction on an indictment charging him with Possession with the Intent to Distribute Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (“GHB”)and Aiding and Abetting. GHB is commonly termed the “date rape drug.”