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Cannabis company files federal RICO case against Baldwin Park, former city attorney



Header Image: Former Baldwin Park City Attorney Robert Tafoya. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News/file)

The San Bernardino Sun

Officials accused of swindling ‘an elderly man dying of cancer who poured his life savings into a venture that was destined for failure’

A cannabis company in Baldwin Park is suing the city, its former city attorney and several other public officials under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, based on allegations that the city’s rollout of commercial cannabis was rigged to benefit the officials and their allies.

The federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday, Jan. 18, by David Ju, names Baldwin Park, former City Attorney Robert Tafoya, former Deputy City Attorney Anthony Willoughby II, former Councilmember Ricardo Pacheco, former Compton Councilmember Isaac Galvan, former Baldwin Park Mayor Manny Lozano and former Chief Deputy Cty Clerk Lourdes Morales as defendants.

“These individuals acted in concert to orchestrate a swindle on an elderly man dying of cancer who poured his life savings into a venture that was destined for failure from the get-go and nothing more than a collusive scheme marred by bribery and corruption,” wrote attorney David Torres-Siegrist in the lawsuit.

Ju bought a cannabis company, Tier One Consulting, in October 2018 after it received approval to operate within the city limits. He alleges he entered into an agreement to buy the company from Willoughby II, who would later be hired by then-City Attorney Robert Tafoya to work on cannabis-related matters. The deal was brokered by Galvan, according to the lawsuit.

Willoughby II has denied having an ownership stake in Tier One in the past and has stated that it was owned by his father, Anthony Willoughby.

Pacheco, a former councilmember caught up in a different bribery scheme, later would agree to a plea deal with federal investigators where he alleged under penalty of perjury that Galvan and Tafoya were involved in his efforts to solicit bribes from cannabis companies looking to operate in Baldwin Park.

Tafoya and Galvan, as well as San Bernardino County Planning Commissioner Gabriel Chavez, were raided by the FBI as part of a sweeping probe into corruption in the cannabis industry in 2020. Chavez agreed to a plea deal earlier this year, while Galvan and Tafoya have not been charged.

An unsealed plea agreement with Pacheco alleges Tafoya gave Pacheco the idea to find an intermediary to accept bribes from cannabis companies and that Galvan eventually facilitated some of those bribes.

“Plaintiffs allege that the pattern has been one of racketeering activity involving multiple criminal acts, including but not limited to, bribery, kickbacks and other improper relationships throughout the application and granting process, as well as defrauding individuals, such as plaintiffs, through the use and abuse of their positions within the city,” the lawsuit alleges.


Cannabis company files federal RICO case against Baldwin Park, former city attorney

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Cannabis Law News

City of Pontiac Sued By Real Estate Developer Over Medical Cannabis Rules & Regs




Header Image: The Dream…

The Reality As Of January 2023


Oakland Press reports

Pontiac is facing a $60 million lawsuit over medical marijuana rules and regulations. It’s the latest setback in the city’s efforts to achieve the mandate from voters five years ago to allow cannabis businesses.

Rubicon Real Estate Holdings and Joseph Brown, of Brown Design Consultants, filed suit in Oakland County 6th circuit court late Monday, naming the city and the city’s clerk, Garland Doyle, as defendants.

In the filing, Rubicon says the city’s delays are to blame for Rubicon’s lender withholding $45 million in loans needed to rehabilitate the long-vacant buildings on seven parcels known as Glenwood Plaza, 7 and 9 Glenwood Ave. in Pontiac.”

On May 21, 2021, Sixth Circuit Judge Yasmine Poles ordered the city to approve all the pending permits related to the Glenwood redevelopment and allow Rubicon and its tenants to move forward. The last line of her opinion notes that the case was not considered closed. Monday’s filing is based on Poles 2021 opinion.

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Press Release March 19, 2020

Funding Secured to Redevelop Vacant Pontiac Property as Cannabis Campus

Titan Funding has secured funding for acquisition of a 327,000-square-foot property to be redeveloped as a Cannabis Campus

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“Redeveloping an area that has sat empty for decades, while also providing new jobs, is a win-win for the town,” says President Edward Piazza.

    BOCA RATON, FL, March 19, 2020 /24-7PressRelease/ — Titan Funding announces it has secured phase one funding on behalf of its client, Rubicon Real Estate Holdings, LLC, for the acquisition of the 327,000-square-foot vacant Glenwood plaza in Pontiac, Michigan. Plans are to redevelop the site as a full-service Cannabis Campus with construction slated to begin in the second quarter of 2020.

Rubicon closed on the property in February with the help of a $5 million loan arranged through Titan Funding. The site will be redeveloped as a Cannabis Campus that will include approximately 266,000 square feet of cultivation space in addition to an 8,000-square-foot retail dispensary and a similar-sized testing and transport facility. Long-term plans for the site also include a large neighborhood grocery store and other retail outlets. The need for a grocery store became evident when talking to local residents and the proposed supermarket will also benefit from the security required for the medical marijuana complex. The anticipated timeline for completion of phase two is three to four years.

The Glenwood Plaza has been vacant for several years and Rubicon’s plans will create as many as 100 jobs, revitalizing the town, with training being offered for new employees. The training course will be free of charge to local residents.

“Here at Titan Funding, we are delighted to have been instrumental in making this exciting new enterprise happen,” says President Edward Piazza. “Redeveloping an area that has sat empty for decades, while also providing new jobs, is a win-win for the town.”

Titan Funding (, is a South Florida-based commercial real estate lending company that focuses on providing bridging loans on financing for multifamily, hospitality, retail and mixed-use projects.

For more information on investing with Titan Funding, or to submit a deal, please contact Edward Piazza at

Press Contact:
Edward Piazza

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Cannabis Law News

10th Circuit says man cannot sue Denver officer for confiscating hemp plants at airport




Colorado Politics reports

The 2018 law that legalized hemp production and barred states from prohibiting the transportation of hemp does not permit a man to sue a police officer for confiscating 32 of his plants at Denver International Airport, the federal appeals court based in Colorado ruled on Tuesday.

It was an open question whether a provision of the 2018 Farm Bill, which specifies that no state or tribe “shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products,” gave Francisco Serna the right to sue Officer Anselmo Jaramillo for seizing his legal hemp plants in March 2021. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit determined Serna did not have that right.

“Serna must show that Congress intended such authorization,” wrote Judge Nancy L. Moritz in the Jan. 24 opinion.

Jeffrey S. Gard, a criminal defense attorney who also focuses on cannabis and hemp issues, said the case revolved less around hemp than about individuals’ broader ability to hold the government liable for wrongdoing.

“I think I agree with the plaintiff. He had every right under the Farm Bill to transport his product. It says right there, right where he quoted it directly, nobody should be prohibiting my transportation of a legal product,” Gard said. “Being able to sue for that right is another matter.”

Serna told Colorado Politics he had not been optimistic the 10th Circuit would find an ability to sue, known as a private right of action, in the hemp-legalization language of the Farm Bill.

“I think it’s an interesting result for the hemp industry because it answers the question: Whether there’s a private right of action if somebody gets their stuff confiscated,” he said. “At least in this circuit, it answers that question.”

Serna, who lives in Austin, Texas, filed a federal lawsuit by himself one day after passing through Denver International Airport in March 2021. He alleged he was traveling with 32 hemp plant clones or rooted clippings. According to Serna, he legally cultivated the plants pursuant to the 2018 Farm Bill, which set up a framework for nationwide hemp production as long as plants contain less than 0.3% of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol.

Anything over that THC threshold is legally considered marijuana, which is outlawed federally.

Alex Buscher, a lawyer whose practice touches on hemp and marijuana, said the 10th Circuit’s interpretation means that the federal government is the party who can enforce states’ compliance with the transport provision.

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Costello Pleads Guilty To Securities Fraud – Prosecutors To Recommend 10 Year Prison Sentence




Cannabis Business Executive reports...Justin Costello, who posed as a billionaire and twice-wounded Special Forces Iraq veteran to dupe investors while portraying himself as a legal cannabis mogul, pleaded guilty Wednesday to securities fraud.

Under a plea agreement with Costello, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 10 years in prison, with Costello echoing that call and being barred from asking for less time than that.

Costello also agreed to pay victims of his frauds — which related to cannabis firms, a would-be bank, and stock pump-and-dumps — not less than $35 million in restitution.

Costello’s guilty plea in federal court in Seattle came three months after an FBI SWAT team apprehended the 42-year-old in a remote area of southern California, carrying a backpack containing gold bars, $70,000 in U.S. and Mexican currency, and a fake ID.

Days earlier, he had failed to surrender as agreed to face a 25-count indictment in the case.

That indictment charged Costello with three counts of securities fraud and 22 counts of wire fraud.

His guilty plea Wednesday was to a single count of securities fraud, but it covered much of the criminal conduct alleged in the indictment.

Prosecutors agreed as part of the plea deal not to file criminal charges against Costello’s wife “for any offenses known” to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington in connection with the investigation.[Read More @ CNBC]

Fake cannabis billionaire Justin Costello pleads guilty in $35 million fraud, with recommended prison term of 10 years

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