Pubdate: Tue, 17 Jan 2012
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2012 Helena Independent Record
Author: Eve Byron


As Richard and Justin Flor prepare to enter guilty pleas Tuesday to 
an unknown number of charges against them surrounding the family's 
medical marijuana business, new court documents explained how the 
case was investigated.

The Flor family was involved in one of the state's largest medical 
marijuana operations.

In an "offer of proof" filed late last week by the U.S. Attorney's 
office, it appears that Justin Flor will plead guilty to conspiracy 
to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 
marijuana. The document doesn't mention any of the other 14 charges 
filed against him, nor does it mention charges filed against his 
father, Richard Flor or his plea agreement. However, Richard Flor's 
attorney, Brad Arndorfer, has requested a change-of-plea hearing too.

The government writes that had the matter gone to trial, it would use 
the testimony of two cooperating witnesses -- who aren't named in the 
document -- as well as special Drug Enforcement Agency special agents 
to prove the case against Justin Flor.

Both of the cooperating witnesses, identified in court documents as 
"CW1" and "CW2," appear to be involved in the business end of the 
medical marijuana enterprise.

The first cooperating witness was expected to testify that as far 
back as 2006, Justin Flor and others grew marijuana outdoors at the 
Flor family home, where Justin lived with his parents, Richard and 
Sherry. The witness also claims that the marijuana was stored at the 
Flor home and distributed to others, including the witness and customers.

That witness also told the government prosecutors that in early 2009, 
the business partners decided to expand outside of the Miles City 
home, and started growing marijuana in at least one location near 
Three Forks, as well as in a series of large greenhouses in the old 
State Nursery Building off of Highway 12 west of Helena.

The marijuana was then distributed to locations in Helena, Missoula, 
Billings and Miles City.

The second cooperating witness was involved in managing the money 
generated by the marijuana sales, according to court documents. The 
witness was expected to testify that the Flors and their partners 
deposited money from the sale of the marijuana into bank accounts and 
used it to compensate themselves and their partners, as well as to 
finance the continued production and distribution of marijuana.

The government also planned to put an Internal Revenue Service agent 
on the witness stand to testify that more than $1 million was 
deposited in various accounts.

In addition, two DEA agents, Dan Dunlap and Diane Jenkins, were 
expected to report how they purchased about four ounces of marijuana 
from one of the Flors at the residence on Oct. 27, 2007, while 
another agent, Wesley Smith, said he observed more than 30 marijuana 
plants growing in the yard of their Miles City home.

The government also said it could prove that agents confiscated about 
950 marijuana plants from the Helena greenhouses, as well as a number 
of firearms.

The Flor family -- Richard, 67, his wife Sherry, 55, and Justin, were 
arrested in March 2011 after being indicted by a grand jury on 15 
counts total including drug manufacturing, possessing and 
distributing, plus money laundering and possessing a firearm during a 
drug trafficking offense.

In November, Sherry Flor pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money 
laundering charges, and the other counts were dropped.

A hearing was held earlier this month to decide whether Richard Flor 
was competent to stand trial; he is in the early stages of dementia, 
according to a psychologist. The psychologist said Flor would have 
difficulties aiding his defense attorney but is well enough to 
understand the nature of the offenses against him.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell, who is presiding 
over the case, didn't rule yet on the competency concerns.

Richard Flor allegedly was a partner in Montana Cannabis, one of the 
state's largest medical marijuana operations. The company was one of 
numerous medical marijuana businesses across Montana that was raided 
last March by state and federal agents.

Many of the business owners said they believed they were operating 
within the constraints of a state law allowing "caregivers" to grow 
and provide medical marijuana to people with certain ailments. 
However, the federal government argues that marijuana is still 
considered a dangerous drug and they're focusing raids on medical 
marijuana nurseries and distributors that also involve large amounts 
of money changing hands and weapons being involved.

In court documents, the Flors had argued that their business complied 
with state medical marijuana laws and that the federal prosecutors' 
conduct was "outrageous" when they brought charges against a 
legitimate business.

All three Flors have been released from custody but must check in 
regularly with federal probation officers.

The change of plea hearing for both Richard and Justin Flor is 
scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. today at the Paul Hatfield Federal 
Courthouse in Helena.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom