Published: May 1, 2014, 2:07 pm
By John Ingold, The Denver Post
For a time, the Denver medical marijuana businessmen now under indictment in federal court walked alongside the city’s elite.
The home one rented in Cherry Hills Village is valued at nearly $1.3 million, records show. The 150,000-square-foot warehouse they attempted to buy in northeast Denver — which now sits at the center of the case against the men — was owned at the time by a publishing magnate.
When federal raids last year apparently caused the warehouse sale to collapse, a new buyer swooped in. Douglas Moreland — Dealin’ Doug of car commercial fame — confirmed to The Denver Post that he bought the warehouse earlier this year. He said he has since leased it to a state-licensed marijuana business, which he said intends to set up a cultivation facility.
“I’m not in the marijuana business,” Moreland said.
On Thursday, two of the indicted businessmen walked into a federal courtroom wearing jail-issued jumpsuits for their second hearing since their arrests on Monday. Both David Furtado and Luis Uribe pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and attempting to engage in an illegal financial transaction.
Both were allowed to be released on $75,000 bonds, but they also were required to abide by one very specific condition: No involvement in the marijuana industry while out on bond.
Few new details about the case — about which federal investigators have been tight-lipped — were revealed during the court hearings. The four men — Furtado, an attorney; Uribe; Uribe’s brother, Gerardo; and Colombia citizen Hector Diaz — were charged in connection with the largest ever federal raids on the Colorado marijuana industry. The raids centered on the VIP Cannabis dispensary, which Gerardo and Luis Uribe operate, and its associates.
If convicted of the most serious charges, each could face up to 20 years in prison.
The indictment, unsealed earlier this week, alleges that the four conspired to funnel money from Colombia into a bank account for a purported metals business in Colorado owned by Diaz. Prosecutors say the money, along with funds transferred through trust accounts controlled by Furtado, then went toward purchasing the massive warehouse at 5200 E. Smith Road, where prosecutors say the men wanted to grow marijuana.
It remains unclear whether prosecutors believe marijuana grown at the warehouse would have been sold through a dispensary or into the black market.
According to Denver property records, the Smith Road warehouse was until March owned by publishing magnate and philanthropist A. Barry Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld, who sits on the board of the powerful civic organization Colorado Concern, is traveling this week, his assistant said. He did not return a message for comment.
In March, property records show Moreland bought the warehouse for nearly $5.4 million — more than $2 million over the warehouse’s assessed value. Moreland said he couldn’t remember the name of the marijuana business to which he’s leased the warehouse, which once housed a printing plant and, then, indoor soccer fields.
Moreland said federal investigators have not interviewed him.
“The company I’m leasing it to is not one of these indicted people that I’m aware of,” he said.
But state records raise questions about the warehouse’s ongoing connection to the raids.
Natriece Bryant, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Revenue, said a company called the RME Group LLC has a license to operate a cultivation facility at the warehouse. State records show the RME Group also has a medical marijuana dispensary license at 7739 and 7741 E. Colfax Ave.
That building currently sits empty, though there are signs in front for both a tattoo parlor and a hydroponic-growing supply company. Not only is the building directly across the street from one of the dispensaries that federal agents raided last year, the RME Group was previously registered to a different address that was also hit during last year’s raids.
When the RME Group formed in July of last year, it listed David Furtado as its registered agent, according to state records. A representative of the company could not be reached for comment.
Furtado was expected to be released on bond Thursday afternoon. Luis Uribe, who was restricted to home detention while on bond, could be released by the weekend. Diaz, who was previously charged with a firearms offense in connection with the raids, was already out on bond. And Gerardo Uribe has a court hearing Monday, when prosecutors will announce whether they want to hold him further.