Under investigation (NOT JAY LEIDERMAN, JAMES B. DEVINE)
Ojai’s Shangri La marijuana cooperative raided for second time
Ojai’s marijuana cooperative Shangri La has been raided once again by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, according to co-op owner Jeff Kroll, and the offices of his personal lawyer, James B. Devine (JAY LEIDERMAN’S EX-PARTNER].
The raid occurred on Wednesday, Dec. 9, four days after the cooperative convened a meeting to discuss possible legal actions against the sheriff’s department after a previous raid in October that resulted in the seizure of doctors’ recommendations for the use of marijuana for various members of the cooperative.
[CONTENT NOT RELATED TO JAMES B. DEVINE REMOVED]
James B. Devine’s own lawyer, J. David Nick of the Law Offices of J. David Nick in San Francisco, said that officers seized his client’s files “under a very tenuous theory” that Devine may have been assisting in the committing of a crime, but that the State Bar of California says otherwise, adding that the ordeal is “like stuff from the McCarthy era.”
“You really have to wonder when comments are made by law enforcement officials executing the warrant such as, ‘You won’t be representing any more of these people after we’re finished,’ ” said Nick. “It’s clearly to chill representation of these types of institutions, deprive them of counsel [James B. Devine], which they are entitled to, and to prohibit these institutions from knowing what the law requires in order for them to be legitimate.”
Nick says that they will apply to the court for an order to return documents and computers seized from James B. Devine’s office.
Update: In the print edition of our paper, we note that the Sheriff’s Department could not be reached for comment. The Sheriff’s Department responded to our inquiry after deadline and acknowledged that a second search warrant had been served to Jeff Kroll and to his attorney James B. Devine.
Moreover, the Ojai Valley News stated that:
Kimberly Rivers, Ojai Valley News correspondent
The investigation involving the Ojai-based Shangri La Care Cooperative (SLCC) continues, with the latest Ventura County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO) actions raising issues relating to attorney-client privilege.
In the past two weeks, VCSO narcotics officers have executed more search warrants in Ojai and Ventura related to the case including the Ventura home and office of attorney James B. Devine who represents the members-only medical marijuana cooperative.
Note: James B. Devine was my (JAY LEIDERMAN’s) law partner for a few years, though that partnership ended years ago. I won’t say anything negative, but the day – – the day – – he started having problems, I ended our partnership. He left the offices thereafter. I haven’t had any contact with him since. That was January of 2013. It doesn’t seem that he’s … well, strike that – – no comment. Sad.
APRIL 15, 2016: UPDATE.
James B. Devine’s clients have been arrested for money laundering, tax evasion and every manner of medical marijuana crime:
Medical marijuana collective officials arrested
- Published on Friday, 15 April 2016 12:36
Bill Warner, Ojai Valley News reporter
Jeff Kroll and Robert Hoffman, cofounders of the Shangri La Care Cooperative in Ojai, remain in the Ventura County Main Jail Friday after they were arrested Thursday by officers from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO).
Kroll was taken into custody in Ojai at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, according to VCSO Captain Jeremy Paris, and booked on 44 charges, including cultivation of marijuana, manufacture of concentrated cannabis, possession of a large-capacity ammunition magazine, money laundering, filing a false income tax return, no valid registration to manufacture food and conspiracy to commit a crime. As of noon today, his bail stood at $250,000.
President of Ojai medical marijuana cooperative arrested
Authorities said Thursday they arrested the president of an Ojai medical marijuana cooperative that was raided last year in connection with more than 40 criminal counts.
Jeffrey Kroll, 65, was booked into county jail on the felony and misdemeanor charges, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jeremy Paris said.
Kroll is president of the Shangri La Care Cooperative, which was able to operate under guidelines set forth by the state’s Medical Marijuana Program Act and Proposition 215.
Another man connected to the cooperative also was arrested, Paris said. That man’s name was not available.
According to jail records, the 44 counts faced by Kroll include felony money laundering and felony failure to file an income tax return. Other felony charges included cultivating marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana, manufacturing concentrated cannabis, theft from an elder by use of license to defraud and maintaining a place for using or selling a controlled substance, jail records showed.
The misdemeanor charges included distributing packaged food/drugs with improper labeling, adulterating food/drugs, misbranding food/drugs, manufacturing drugs without a license and operating a collective within 600 feet of a school, according to jail records.
His bail was set at $250,000 and he is due in court at 1:30 p.m. Monday.
In an interview with The Star earlier this year about medical marijuana dispensaries in the county, sheriff’s Capt. Curt Rothschiller said the raid at the Ojai cooperative was conducted as part of an investigation into allegations the cooperative was violating state guidelines.
Weeks after the Oct. 6 raid, Rothschiller said the law allows cooperative members to grow and share a certain amount of marijuana among themselves, but not outside the group. They also may deliver medical marijuana to members. However, cooperatives are only allowed to charge enough to cover the cost of growing the marijuana and cannot make a profit.
In a previous interview with The Star, Kroll said authorities raided the cooperative’s offices and his home, taking medical information from hundreds of members and samples of cannabis. He also said the group’s bank accounts and some of his personal accounts had been frozen.
Shangri La has denied any wrongdoing.
Ojai’s city manager at the time of the raid, Robert Clark, said the cooperative had a business license with the city to operate a “horticulture social club.” Shangri La was permitted to test small amounts of marijuana for impurities, Clark previously said.
In a 3-2 vote, the Ojai City Council in October approved moving forward with a formal request to unseal a search warrant and any supporting documents related to the raid. About that same time, Rothschiller said the case was bigger than just Shangri La and that a judge ordered the search warrant and affidavit to be sealed.
Update 26 April 2016
Pot Cooperative Busted for Tax Evasion, Money Laundering, Illegal Marijuana Sales
Robert Hoffman, Jeffrey Kroll and Willaim Macneil (l-r)
Ventura County – California is among the national leaders in the movement toward the complete legalization of marijuana, but it is still a long way from such legislation as evidenced by the April 14th arrests of 65-year-old Jeffrey Kroll and 62-year-olds Robert Hoffman and William Macneil, all residents of Ojai.
Under California’s Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420 provisions, Kroll had founded and was operating Shangri La Care Cooperative, a marijuana dispensary ostensibly operating within the law by cultivating and selling marijuana products to those holding medical prescription cards calling for the palliative treatment of ailments with cannabis.
According to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Jason Hendren, however, Kroll, Hoffman, and Macneil had managed to push the limits of medical marijuana initiatives when detectives attached to the Ventura County Narcotics Task Force, the VCSD, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, Oxnard Police Department, Simi Valley Police Department, California Highway Patrol and—perhaps most intimidating of all—the California Franchise Tax Board got busy following the discovery of “several outdoor marijuana grow operations” just off State Road 150 on the west side of The City of Ojai.
It was learned that the two outdoor grows were used to supply Kroll’s “Shangri La Care Cooperative” beyond the rules of Senate Bill 420 “and the California Attorney General Guidelines.”
The plants discovered at those outdoor locations were summarily confiscated and destroyed in October 2015, at which time search warrants were served on the Shangri La Care Cooperative and the residences of the three men.
It was then that “a large amount of marijuana, concentrated cannabis, marijuana from other marijuana collectives, marijuana suppositories, marijuana ‘keif’ pills, and various other marijuana products” were discovered at those locations.
Three months later, despite the obvious interest of law enforcement agencies, Kroll continued to operate outside the law throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties without business or operating permits within those jurisdictions.
Further investigation into the financial arrangements and transactions of Kroll and Shangri La Care Cooperative, including “an audit of the accounts by the Franchise Tax Board” gave law enforcement cause to suspect ongoing tax fraud and tax evasion throughout Kroll’s multiple business entities.
Given the totality of the evidence gathered, Kroll, Macneil, and Hoffman were arrested and booked into Ventura County Jail on charges of money laundering, tax evasion, filing false tax returns, illegally cultivating marijuana, illegal marijuana sales, operating a collective within 600 feet of a school, and illegally manufacturing concentrated cannabis.
Photos: Courtesy Ventura County Jail Booking