Colombian Pleads Not Guilty To US Weapons Charge
DENVER (AP) – A Colombian national who was arrested during raids on Colorado medical marijuana businesses pleaded not guilty to a federal weapons charge Thursday and was told he will be released on bond if he stays away from two pot dispensaries.
Hector Diaz, 49, is charged with possession of a firearm while in the U.S. on a business or tourism visa. He posted $25,000 bond and was expected to be released later Thursday.
Diaz is the only person known to have been arrested during the Nov. 21 raids on more than a dozen sites, many of them medical marijuana businesses in Denver and Boulder.
Prosecutors have not said whether Diaz is linked to the pot investigation or disclosed the reasons for the raids. But among the conditions of his bond, Diaz was ordered to have no contact with the 420 Wellness marijuana dispensary or the VIP Off Colfax dispensary.
Prosecutors did not give a reason for the restriction and Diaz’s attorney, Abraham Hutt, did not immediately return a call. A person who answered the phone at 420 Wellness said no one was available to comment. No one answered the phone at VIP Off Colfax, and an email wasn’t immediately returned.
Diaz was also ordered to stay away from a house in the upscale Denver suburb of Cherry Hills Village that federal agents searched during the Nov. 21 raids. Diaz was in the house at the time of the search, but it wasn’t clear if he was staying there.
The raids occurred just weeks before Colorado will allow sellers of recreational marijuana to open for business. Federal agents confiscated piles of marijuana plants and cartons of cannabis-infused drinks.
Medical marijuana is already legal under Colorado state law, although the drug remains illegal under federal law.
The weapons charge alleges Diaz was in possession of a semi-automatic rifle that was involved in interstate commerce because it had been shipped across state lines. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 if convicted.
Prosecutors released a photo they said shows Diaz posing with two semi-automatic rifles and two handguns while wearing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency cap.
Hutt has said Diaz owns a Denver-area metals business and that his daughter plans to attend a university in Colorado.
- By Dan Elliott, AP Writer
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