The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced a set of indictments Tuesday alleging that operators of nearly a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries -- including two in West Hollywood -- profiteered from the illegal distribution of pot.
Among those accused are the operators of Compassionate Caregivers, a chain-store medical marijuana operation that did more than $95 million in business.
"These dispensary operators are no different than any other drug trafficker: They prey on people in our communities to make a profit," said Timothy J. Landrum, special agent in charge of the DEA in Los Angeles.
Authorities say the owners of Compassionate Caregivers, Larry R. Kristich and James Carberry, ran dispensaries in Oakland, San Francisco, San Leandro, Ukiah, Bakersfield, San Diego and West Hollywood.
The indictment alleges that profits from marijuana sales were used to purchase expensive automobiles and real estate in Costa Rica. At a West Hollywood shop known as Yellow House, operators accepted credit cards and did more than $1.7 million in business in a single month, the indictment contends.
Others indicted included the operators of dispensaries in Corona and Morro Bay, where patients were charged two to three times the street value of marijuana, according to San Luis Obispo County Undersheriff Steve Bolts.
He called it "a super-sized retail drug-dealing center working under the cloak and smoke of Prop. 215," the 1996 ballot measure that legalized medical cannabis in California.
Also indicted in Morro Bay was Dr. Armand T. Tollette Jr. He is accused of writing marijuana recommendations for minors, failing to conduct physical examinations and paying "finder's fees" in marijuana for client referrals. Under federal law, conspiracy to distribute marijuana carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.