The largest federal raids ever of Colorado's medical-marijuana industry culminated Monday in the indictment of four people on accusations they funneled and laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars from Colombia to buy a Denver warehouse.
The allegations in the case, detailed for the first time Monday, paint a picture of international money transfers, a marijuana dispensary owner on the lam, high-dollar cultivation facilities, and a car trunk full of cash. If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to decades in prison.
"This is a money-laundering case," Jeffrey Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Colorado, said after a court hearing Monday.
Named in the indictment are brothers Luis and Gerardo Uribe, 28 and 33, respectively; attorney David Furtado, 48; and Colombian citizen Hector Diaz, 49. Both Uribes and Furtado were among the owners of the more than a dozen medical-marijuana businesses that Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service investigators raided last November in the biggest federal sweep ever against the state's legal marijuana industry.
Diaz was previously the only person arrested in connection with the raids, after he was detained on the day of the raids and ultimately charged with a weapons offense. The new indictment maintains the weapons charge against Diaz and also adds one count of making a false statement to authorities.
All four defendants face charges of money laundering.
Furtado and Luis Uribe made a brief court appearance Monday wearing the gray T-shirts and casual slacks they were apparently wearing when they were arrested Friday. Neither spoke during the hearing, other than to tell federal magistrate judge Boyd Boland that they understood their rights. They were ordered held without bond until Thursday, when prosecutors will say whether they want to hold the pair longer.
Diaz is scheduled to make a court appearance Wednesday. Gerardo Uribe, meanwhile, has not yet been arrested, and prosecutors consider him a fugitive from justice.
Boland on Monday ordered that the new indictment be unsealed, but the court clerk's office did not make it available Monday afternoon.
However, in a statement from the Colorado U.S. attorney's office, prosecutors said the case involves allegations of complicated transfers of money from banks in Colombia and Colorado to buy a warehouse for marijuana cultivation and to fund a marijuana-distribution operation.
According to the statement, Diaz, Furtado and Gerardo Uribe are accused of transferring $424,000 from Colombia to a Wells Fargo bank account in the name of Colorado West Metal. The company, which lists Furtado as its registered agent in state records, was set up by Diaz.
Diaz previously told investigators he owns a metals company in Colorado that makes concertina wire, a type of coiled barbed wire most frequently seen atop prison walls. He told investigators the money transfer was to buy a warehouse for the metals business, according to court documents.
Prosecutors, however, say the money was used to purchase a warehouse at 5200 E. Smith Road in Denver to grow marijuana. According to the prosecution statement, money also is alleged to have flowed through trust accounts held by Furtado's law firm.
Though the prosecution statement alleges more than $600,000 was put toward the warehouse, it is unclear whether the sale was finalized. It is also unclear from prosecutors' statement whether they are alleging marijuana from the warehouse on Smith Road was intended to be sold through the defendants' medical-marijuana businesses or on the black market.
Prosecutors also alleged that, in late October last year, Gerardo gave Furtado nearly $450,000 in cash to deposit into a Wells Fargo account. The money came from the operation of one of the Uribes' dispensaries, VIP Cannabis, according to prosecutors.
A source familiar with the investigation told The Denver Post that Furtado was stopped by police a short time later and, in the trunk of his car, authorities found a large amount of cash, which was seized. Prosecutors say they are also seeking to seize more money from the defendants' dispensaries as part of the case.
Luis and Gerardo Uribe owned interests in a number of Colorado medical-marijuana stores and cultivation facilities. Furtado, who often represents them, also had an ownership stake in Grateful Meds, a dispensary in Nederland.
State regulators recently moved to close the stores, noting numerous compliance violations in the official notices of denial.
Furtado, Uribe and others listed as targets of last year's raids have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and said all their actions were legal under Colorado laws governing marijuana stores.
Sources have told The Post that investigators were looking into possible ties to Colombian cartels. But Monday's prosecution statement contains no allegation of cartel ties, and those targeted have previously denied involvement with organized crime.
"If people knew Gerardo Uribe," Furtado told The Post earlier this year, "they would know he is not Colombian cartel. He is honest. He tries to do the right things."
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/john_ingold