DENVER (CBS4) – For the first time since charges were filed, a key informant in an investigation of Colombian involvement in Colorado’s legalized marijuana industry is speaking of her role in a marijuana grow house.
That person, who spoke to CBS4 about her role in on the condition of anonymity, said she felt like her business partner cheated her financially, so she turned on him and talked to the DEA.
“I feel that I was drug into something I should not have been drug into. I feel I was taken advantage of financially as well as many other ways,” she said.
Information gleaned from the woman helped lead to federal raids in 2013 in which agents seized hundreds of thousands of dollars, 13,000 marijuana plants, 750 pounds of pot, 11 assault rifles, jewelry, cars and more. Attorneys prosecuting cases against four men involved in the operation contend that some money from the marijuana network was sent to Colombia, while the marijuana was distributed in Florida and New York.
The raid, which occurred on Nov. 21, 2013, alongside 15 other locations, was one several of high-profile busts on marijuana operations since voters legalized recreational marijuana two years ago. Agents from the IRS and State Department joined the DEA in the raid.
The four men accused of laundering the money and other crimes are:
– David Furtado, a Denver attorney and the informant’s former business partner, is charged with making financial transactions in violation of federal law.
– Gerardo Uribe and his brother, Luis, owned marijuana dispensaries in the Denver area. They are accused of using money from Colombia to buy a building for growing and distributing marijuana.
– Hector Diaz, a Colombian, is charged with money laundering and a weapons count. In the 2013 raid, agents recovered five assault rifles, a shotgun and five handguns from a multi-million-dollar Cherry Hills Village home where Diaz lived. Prosecutors said a photo showing Diaz double-fisting two automatic weapons also offered evidence he possessed illegal firearms.
They have pleaded not guilty. They have all been released on bond while they await trial.
During court proceedings on Dec. 5, prosecutors said they are turning over 50,000 more pages of documents, videos and audio tapes to the defense. The suspects’ attorneys suggested their defendants may need separate trials.
The informant said she joined the marijuana business with Furtado in 2010. But she said she felt he was cheating her over the amount of money she said she expected to receive and the ownership of the warehouse.
The investigation began near the beginning of 2011. Informants told the DEA that marijuana was being sold and transported across state lines, illegal under state and federal law.
She said the ordeal has made her fear for her life.
“(It) has it turned into a nightmare, an absolute horrific nightmare,” she said.
The informant also sued Furtado over their business relationship, but it didn’t get far when she didn’t show up in court. The court issued a judgment in Furtado’s favor, which has now been settled.
“I felt that my life could be in jeopardy if I showed up at the court,” she said.
Furtado declined CBS4’s requests for an interview while he faces criminal charges, although his attorney said the informant’s statements are “mostly fictitious.”
The case kindled the federal government’s fear, too, that recreational marijuana in Colorado — the first state in the nation to legalize it — would pique the interest of illegal international cartels looking swoop in.
“We don’t (want to) see organized crime of whatever kind get into the marijuana industry or take advantage of a state-legalized marijuana system,” U.S. Attorney John Walsh said.
The informant also said she insisted to the city of Denver that her business’ warehouse was being converted into a marijuana grow house. The owners rewired electricity, added ventilation and increased security cameras without proper permits. The warehouse, located at 2640 E. 43rd Ave., was raided.
“I asked (the city) to push the issue,” she said. “I wanted everything torn out in the building, all the construction that had been done, and the wiring. And I wanted them to do a full investigation, which they refused to do.”
But the city of Denver told CBS4 it did investigate and issued a stop work permit until the proper paperwork was filed.
Meanwhile, the informant continued providing information to drug investigators, telling them about contacts with Uribe brothers and their relationship with Furtado.