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October 20, 2014

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12 arrested with ties to Las Vegas medical marijuana clinic raids

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Steve Marcus

Law enforcement officers enter a medical marijuana clinic at East Sahara Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010.

Updated Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 | 1:56 p.m.

Twelve people were arrested Thursday morning in connection with a federal investigation dubbed Operation Chronic Problem involving medical marijuana clinics in and around Las Vegas, officials said.

The arrests stem from raids conducted by Metro Police and federal agents in September during an investigation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the Las Vegas Valley, said Sarah Pullen, special agent in the Los Angeles field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which includes Nevada. No one was arrested during the execution of those search warrants in September.

Eleven people were arrested in the Las Vegas area and one was arrested in California, but all are connected to the Las Vegas investigation, Pullen said. Federal charges have been filed against three other people who haven't been found, officials said.

The suspects face a variety of federal charges, including conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana, conspiracy to commit money laundering, distribution of marijuana near schools or colleges, possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking and failing to disclose or concealing information concerning Social Security benefits, officials said.

Authorities said the 15 suspects were distributing marijuana in violation of federal and state laws through the operation of storefront medical marijuana businesses, such as The Happiness Consultant (THC), the Nevada Compassionate Center, Dr. Reefer, LV Fingerprinting and Organic Releaf.

Nevada law doesn't allow the the sale of medical marijuana. Medical marijuana patients or caregivers must grow their own marijuana in amounts not exceeding state laws.

Officials from the office of U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada said drug intelligence information collected by law enforcement agencies indicates there are 45 to 60 businesses illegally trafficking marijuana in the Las Vegas Valley.

"Marijuana remains a top revenue source for drug organizations, and young people are often misinformed about this drug whose potency has tripled in the past 20 years and sends more youth the treatment than any other drug," said DEA special agent Timothy J. Landrum, who was in charge of this operation, in a statement. "Accordingly, DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and investigate those responsible for propagating this dangerous drug."

Officials said the dispensaries often buy marijuana from third-party vendors, which is not allowed under Nevada law.

In addition, authorities allege that dispensary operators claim they require donations rather than compensation for marijuana — all part of an effort to conceal illegal business operations.

The following defendants are being charged in Operation Chronic Problem. Those already arrested will make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Las Vegas on Friday.

- John Birmele, 36, of Las Vegas (also known as "Mr. Happy"): arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, distribution of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish, possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, money laundering conspiracy - promotion, money laundering, failing to disclose or concealing information affecting Social Security benefits

- Kelly Birmele, 36, of Las Vegas: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, distribution of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish, money laundering conspiracy - concealment

- Laura Rhoades-Yokoi, 36, of Henderson: arrested for money laundering conspiracy - concealment

- John Allen Youngblood, 40, of Los Angeles: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, money laundering conspiracy - promotion

- Timothy Hough, 31, of Henderson: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, distribution of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish, possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime

- Michael Ellsworth, 57, of Henderson: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, distribution of marijuana

- Reynalda Barnett, 59, of Las Vegas (also known as Reyna Barnett): arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, concealing or failing to disclose information affecting Social Security benefits

- Clyde Barnett, 21, of Las Vegas: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana

- Pierre Werner, 39, of Las Vegas: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, concealing or failing to disclose information affecting Social Security benefits

- Ron Teston, 57, of Las Vegas: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana

- Kristen Krusyna, 21, of Las Vegas: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana

- Michael Mcauliffe, 53, of Las Vegas: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, distribution of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish

- Katree Darriel Saunders, 30, of Las Vegas: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, distribution of marijuana

- Chad Uhl, 26, of North Las Vegas: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, distribution of marijuana, possession with intent to manufacture marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish

- Caroline Dellaville, 49, of Henderson: arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, possession with intent to manufacture marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish

The investigation is being conducted as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program with numerous agencies investigating the cases.

Officials said the investigation remains ongoing for other illegal dispensaries operating in the Las Vegas Valley.

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  1. STOP wasting police and court time attempting to regulate one of the few drugs that actually helps people. Most of the people against it are naive and like to spew misinformation like DevilDog or drunks and are FAR more dangerous to the public then someone smoking a joint. Even the police hide behind masks and are AFRAID to show their faces during these highly questionable and I might add profitable raids. We need to WAKE UP and stop giving this money to the Mexican Drug Cartels and start legalizing and taxing it here in NV just like in CA. Alcohol and tobacco are the 2 most dangerous drugs out there and need to be outlawed not MJ.

  2. Full knit helmet masks - these are the same masks worn by terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre. Those terrorists ultimately had killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and 1 West German police officer.

    Now, I get a $500,000+ bill for jail time, court time, attorney time etc. when community services are taken away from the incontinent. Good Honk.

    Do they wear the same masks to Church on Sunday?

  3. So the Devil won't know who they are?

  4. According to the article, distribution and dispenseries are against the law in Nevada. Nothing better for law enforcement than a criminal advertising his operations and making it easy for them to find. (signs in the windows, billboards, etc.).
    Again the stoners come out and use the tired old (innaccurate) quote "MJ has NEVER kills anyone". We all know that isn't true. Next, they will "DEMAND" that I "back up" my statement. How about the Los Angeles 2 year old who drowned because mom & dad decided to get stoned and forgot she was in the tub. How about the 81 year old lady in Bakersfield, Ca. murdered by a 15 year old punk looking to rob her while he was high on weed. Deadly car accidents are sometimes caused by people high as well as people drunk, maybe not as many, but it does happen, just ask any veteran traffic cop. And I'm not defending drinking, I don't drink anything stornger than a diet Pepsi.
    As far as the "most useful plant ever" comment, I can easily live without anything made from that plant. (I don't need rope or cloth bags made from hemp). I would consider cotton to be a much more useful plant.
    Most of the customers of "dispenseries" in California are nothing more than your typical 20 or 30 something stoner who had bought a "prescription" from a "doctor" (Dr. Reefer?) for a fee. Most are not those "cancer victims in pain" the law was promoted to "help".
    Have a good time in jail, guys!

  5. i love thats its upstairs from NA awsome

  6. SerfAttack,
    My house was built using pine, concrete, steel, asphalt, etc. You don't need hemp to build a house.
    You imply that a house cannot be built, unless it is of hemp. All you want the hemp for is one thing, and it ISN'T for building houses or making rope.
    The person I resopnded to said "Why is the most useful plant known, a plant that has never killed anyone, illegal". It did NOT mention anything about OVERDOSE! (although I'm sure SOME have died from an overdose). You stoners try to justify your actions by changing the "facts" and finding NO FAULT in ANYTHING an addict (yes, ADDICT) does.
    Any cop will tell you that most burglaries are tied to someone "needing" to pay for their habit.
    I stand by my 100% sober words.
    I've worked with a few people who "smoked". They were late to work more than the rest of us, always irritable, usually broke, and they worried far more about buying anoother "bag" than doing their job, paying their rent or car payment. And many were FIRED from their jobs for it. While it is true that many are in those situations without the aid of weed, weed certainly pushes more toward that lifestyle.
    What I find "funny" (your words) is that your entire life revolves around pot smoking.
    Ask any cocaine, meth, heroin, etc. addict, they started by smoking a joint. I've met many of them over the years, they freely admit it.
    You say "Also, just because you put someone in jail doesn't mean they dont sneak in Cannabis and smoke/eat in jail. :)", well, I say, they are STILL in JAIL, and if caught, will only get to spend MORE time there.
    In all honesty, if I found out my neighbor was "growing their own" in small amounts, and toking occasionally in the privacy of their own home, I wouldn't turn them in (unless I had some other reason as well), but the neighbor on the other side might.
    Guess what, another drug bust went down in the time it took you to read this.
    I never live in fear of not passing a drug test that some employers require.
    Have fun out there.

  7. Ok so obviously this guy is one of the proud paid participants in the senseless war of this medicine that has been used for OVER 5000 years. The crimes and deaths you mentioned are people that would have clearly had problems with or without this plant. THE VOTERS IN THIS STATE PASSED 453A AND YOU SHOULD STOP WASTING OUR TIME AND MONEY PURSUING THIS MEDICINE. People die and struggle in pain everyday and if this plant helps them you should leave them alone. I understand your a paid participant on the drug war but why don't you target the crack,crank,cocaine, heroin, or meth? COME ON we don't want or tax dollars being wasted anymore.