A marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colorado was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration on May 7 due to its alleged ties with a Colombian drug cartel, according to the Washington Times. Four men, three of whom have been taken into federal custody, are accused of using proceeds from VIP Cannabis to fund drug trafficking efforts. The incident reportedly marks the first arrests involving both marijuana dispensaries and drug cartels since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in 2012.
According to court documents obtained by Breitbart Texas, the three apprehended suspects are 49-year-old Hector Diaz, 48-year-old David Jeffrey Furtado, and 28-year-old Luis Fernand Uribe. A fourth suspect, 33-year-old Gerardo Uribe, remains on the run, according to the Washington Times.
The men allegedly set up the shell corporation, Colorado West Metal, LLC, with the purpose of establishing a Wells Fargo bank account to deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars from Colombia. The money was primarily placed into the bank account via wire transfers.
The defendants allegedly used those funds to purchase the building in which they established the Denver-based VIP Cannabis.
An indictment stated, “It was part of the conspiracy for its members, acting interdependently, to effect the international transfer of funds from the Republic of Colombia into the United States to facilitate the purchase of real property, with existing physical structures.”
Marijuana was apparently grown and sold for recreational purposes at VIP Cannabis.
The business’ profits were consistently deposited into the Wells Fargo account, according to reports. These proceeds, mixed with the currency funneled in from Colombia, was allegedly intended for the use of facilitating illegal drug cartel activities.
Court documents state that each defendant faces numerous charges including money laundering. The Washington Times added that if found guilty, each man could spend more than 40 years behind bars.
The recent incident may raise concerns about recreational marijuana shops–which are currently legal under state law in Colorado and Washington–becoming intertwined with drug trafficking groups. At this time, it is not completely clear how law enforcement plans to keep cartels out of the recreational cannabis business.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.