- Courtesy AG's office
- 18 of the 74 defendants. Remember, they're presumed innocent for now.
They're calling it the biggest black market bust in the legal era. Seventy-four people were recently indicted in connection with a marijuana cultivation and distribution network spanning multiple states, according to an announcement from Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican who's seeking re-election next year. Charges 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. Most, but not all, of the defendants are in custody. The trial has yet to be scheduled, but will take place in Denver District Court.
The case stems from a citizen's complaint to the Denver Police Department in 2014. Following that tip, cops discovered a series of unlicensed grows in industrial and residential properties throughout the Denver Metro area. That's what sparked this years-long investigation involving local, state and federal law enforcement. El Paso County agencies were not involved.
According to the indictment, the alleged scheme went like this: Co-conspirators persuaded investors, including famous football players, to put money into what was pitched as a legal cultivation operation; began growing weed at over 50 locations as registered caregivers; funneled their product to Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma; laundered the proceeds to avoid taxes; and used front companies, like a grow supply store in Castle Rock, as cover.
During the investigation, officials executed nearly 150 search warrants and, so far, have seized about 2,600 marijuana plants and 4,000 pounds of bud. They estimate the enterprise was producing over a hundred pounds of marijuana a month, which, in prohibitionist states, fetches at least $200,000. That means millions of dollars could be wrapped up in this.
Cops nicknamed the operation "Toker Poker," since, as Coffman reportedly told media at a press conference announcing the indictment, members of the enterprise, many of whom are family or high school friends, liked to play poker together. The catchy code name isn't exactly good PR for the actual Colorado-based startup called Toker Poker that makes an all-in-one smoking accessory. (The Toker Poker is a cute lighter sleeve with a hemp wick, tamper and poker that goes for about $8 online.) After news of the bust broke, the company's co-founder, Matt Bodenchuk, told the Cannabist he's very worried about potential damage to the brand and plans to divert tens of thousands of dollars he had budgeted for growing the company into a corrective advertising and search engine optimization effort. The AG's office told the Cannabist that the operation's code name does not suggest the company, Toker Poker, was involved in any of the alleged criminal conduct, but Bodenchuk, who trademarked the name, is reportedly evaluating legal options nonetheless.