Pubdate: Thu, 17 Mar 2011
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Helena Independent Record
Author: Angela Brandt and the Associated Press
Bookmark: (Montana)


Unsealed warrants revealed some information on this week's medical
marijuana raids statewide, including a greenhouse in Helena, but
officials refused to release anything further Wednesday.

Following an 18-month-long investigation, 26 search warrants targeting
seven medical marijuana businesses were executed Monday. Federal
agents were looking for evidence to large-scale trafficking as well as
tax evasion.

No charges have been filed so far.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria Francis said she could not comment on
whether any charges are pending.

"You can't talk about that sort of thing until arraignment," she

An inventory of items seized should be released this week or next,
according to Francis.

As for the court documents supporting the warrants, Francis said those
will probably not be released officially.

The Billings Gazette newspaper obtained a copy of an affidavit that
said undercover agents had been investigating a partner at Montana
Cannabis, Richard Flor, since 2007, with agents buying pot from Flor
at least twice.

The affidavit also outlined interviews with ex-employees of Montana
Cannabis that said the provider bought pounds of pot from Big Sky
Patient Care for weeks last year when Montana Cannabis' main
greenhouse near Helena was vandalized.

Flor's business partner Chris Williams has vehemently denied any
wrongdoing. Montana Cannabis runs a greenhouse on Highway 12 that
provided marijuana for about 300 clients.

Agents took about $70,000 worth of lights and clipped electrical
connections. When asked what happens to the business if no charges
result, Francis said it will be up to the companies.

"Marijuana is still contraband," she added.

During Monday's raid, 1,700 plants were taken as well, in addition to
bank accounts, both personal and business, being frozen.

Civil seizure warrants authorized agents to take more than $4.2
million from bank accounts in Kalispell, Helena and Belgrade.

Those named in the warrants include Montana Cannabis, with locations
in Helena, Missoula, Billings and Miles City; Big Sky Patient Care of
Dillon, Bozeman and Big Sky; Four Seasons Gardening of Columbia Falls;
Northern Lights Medical of Columbia Falls; Good Medicine Providers of
Columbia Falls; Montana Cannabis Ministry of Belgrade; Natural
Medicine of Great Falls; and Queen City Caregivers of Helena.

It was not immediately clear if additional providers are also part of
the investigation.

The civil seizure warrants authorized agents to take more than $4.2
million from bank accounts in Kalispell, Helena and Belgrade. In
Belgrade, a warrant authorized seizure of nearly $1.7 million in a
First Security Bank account in the name of the Montana Cannabis
Ministry and $103,413 in another account belonging to MCM owners Randy
and Stephanie Leibenguth.

In Helena, authorities were authorized to seize more than $1.3 million
from Valley Bank accounts held by Montana Cannabis and the Montana
Caregivers Association, plus a Mountain West Bank account with
$463,749 in the name of Joshua Schultz of Natural Medicine.

In Kalispell, authorities were authorized to seize $653,550 in a
Glacier Bank account belonging to Four Seasons Gardening.

More than 4,800 medical marijuana providers and more than 28,000
patients are registered in Montana.

Another concern is the lists of patients from the providers.

"I know patients' names was a sensitive thing. I don't know for sure
if they even seized the lists," Francis said.

Francis declined to comment further, stating that the only information
she could comment on was in a press release issued Tuesday. 
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