AG Coffman Announces Indictment of Alleged Massive Illegal Marijuana Trafficking Conspiracy
74 Defendants charged for their role in trafficking millions of dollars in illegal drugs out of Colorado
DENVER— Today, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman was joined by numerous law enforcement agency partners to announce the indictment of the largest illegal marijuana trafficking ring since marijuana was legalized in Colorado. Connor Brooks, Jin “Tim” Wu, John Mario Joseph Russo, Jr., Nicholas Gyori, Synnoy Phanbandith, Gregory McBride, Thomas Stockton and dozens of co-conspirators are alleged to have overseen a massive illegal interstate marijuana distribution and cultivation network stretching from Colorado to Texas, and laundering millions of dollars.
For nearly four years, the members of the alleged drug trafficking organization held themselves out as medical marijuana patient caregivers, property managers servicing marijuana growers and small business owners while they trafficked thousands of pounds of marijuana out of state. Certain members of the conspiracy are alleged to have engaged in securities fraud, swindling close friends, business associates of friends, wealthy business persons and former National Football League players by making the victims believe their investments were destined for state licensed marijuana grow facilities.
“This case is a prime example that the black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish,” said Attorney General Coffman. “These trafficking rings are not just operating in the shadows, they are invading our neighborhoods and are often conducting their illegal activity in plain sight under the guise of being a legitimate business. My office remains committed to fighting against illegal traffickers in our state and we will continue to work with our partners at the local, state and federal level to ensure that our communities are safe.”
In January 2014, the Denver Police Department responded to a citizen complaint and found interconnected unlicensed marijuana grows located in warehouses and residences throughout the Denver Metro area. The discovery set in motion a massive local, state, and federal law enforcement investigation. Between March of 2016 and February of 2017 law enforcement officials executed nearly one hundred fifty search warrants.
At of the time of the indictment the dismantling of the organization lead to the seizure of nearly 2600 illegally cultivated marijuana plants and 4,000 pounds of marijuana. These seizures are believed to only scratch the surface of the amount of illegal drugs produced by this organization. Furthermore, financial documents obtained by investigators revealed that millions of dollars in drug revenue passed through the collective “hands” of the drug trafficking organization’s members.
The enterprise produced over 100 pounds of marijuana per month on average. The going rate is approximately $2000 per pound so the revenue would have easily exceeded $200,000 per month from January of 2012 until Spring of 2016.
“The Toker Poker operation dealt a major blow to the illegal marijuana industry,” said Denver Police Chief Robert C. White. “The success of stopping this illegal operation was due to the collaboration of multiple federal, state and local partners, which included more than 250 police officers, who worked tirelessly in to bring these criminals to justice.”
During the ring’s operation, the co-conspirators allegedly controlled the illegal cultivation and distribution of marijuana at 18 warehouses and storage units and 33 residential homes throughout the Front Range. The drug traffickers laundered the proceeds of their illicit activity all the while avoiding the payment of taxes. They disguised much of their criminal activity through front companies that included a marijuana grow supply store and numerous purported property management companies leasing to marijuana growers.
"The Drug Enforcement Administration is committed to targeting and dismantling criminal organizations that prey upon our communities," stated Special Agent in Charge Barbra Roach of DEA's Denver Field Division. "Since 2014 there has been an influx of these organized criminal groups to Colorado for the sole purpose of producing marijuana to sell in other states. Many of these operations involve multiple, sometimes dozens, of homes that are converted into grow sites. Members of these organizations relocated to Colorado in organized cells that then orchestrated the numerous grow operations producing tons of marijuana for out-of-state markets. Because of this the marijuana black market has increased exponentially since state legalization. Our communities pay the price for this and see nothing in return."
The defendants are charged with 31 felony counts and most are now under arrest awaiting trial dates in Denver District Court. They face charges that include violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, illegal marijuana distribution, money laundering, tax evasion, mortgage fraud, theft, securities fraud and attempts to influence public servants.
In addition to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, The Denver Police Department, the Colorado Department of Revenue Criminal Tax Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Denver District Attorney’s Office, the 18th Judicial District District Attorney’s Office and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office were all instrumental in the investigation and prosecution.
Special thanks are extended to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the Arapahoe Narcotics Team, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, the Arvada Police Department, Columbine Valley Police Department, the Commerce City Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Englewood Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Lakewood Police Department, Littleton Police Department, the North Metro Drug Task Force, the Park County Sheriff’s Department, and the West Metro Drug Task Force for providing personnel and assistance during the execution of the numerous search warrants. We would also like to thank the Kansas State Patrol and Nebraska State Patrol who performed stops in their respective jurisdictions to catch several of the traffickers.
The filing of criminal charges or an indictment is merely a formal accusation that an individual committed a crime. Each defendant should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. These cases will be prosecuted in Denver District Court by attorneys with the Criminal Justice Section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
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