By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
Other internal emails show that federal prosecutors used tactics to deliberately terrify landlords who had rented to cannabis collectives. In a Feb. 12 email, one federal agent described a conversation he'd had that morning with a landlord who had no idea he was in danger of losing his property. The landlord, the agent recalled, "said he is unaware that it was illegal for his tenants to sell marijuana from his property. He also said he was never contacted by the government in reference to this property being used to sell marijuana."
The agent then asked his colleagues whether they had any record of a letter being sent to the landlord. In response, another agent chimed in and claimed he'd just hand-delivered a letter to the landlord, stating it had been mailed the previous year. "He said he never got it, but the tenants moved out around the time the letter was dated."
Responding to that exchange, Greg Parham, who was supervising federal asset-forfeiture efforts earlier this year, thanks everyone for their hard work and bluntly states, "We have made a strategic decision not to send our warning letters out via certified or registered mail."
Why would the feds deliberately not make every effort to ensure landlords are notified in a timely and reliable manner their buildings are being targeted? For "shock value," Parham's replacement, Steven Welk, allegedly told attorney Matt J. Pappas in a courtroom conference earlier this year.
"Mr. Welk told me he intentionally did not send warning letters to [three of my clients] ahead of filing forfeiture actions against their properties," Pappas claimed in a July 23 letter to Birotte. "Just days after receiving the lis pendens and notice of the federal lawsuit to take her property, [one landlord] went to the hospital for cardiac issues because of the stress. Her husband . . . told me multiple times he wasn't breaking any laws when I first met him."
One client, Pappas wrote, cried during his first meeting with her, while another landlord was "inconsolable" after learning the feds planned to seize his building. After a couple of months and the immense stress, Pappas wrote, the man "looks like he's aged 20 years."