Long Beach Among Marijuana Arrests in Sweep

Updated: Belmont Shore's pot dispensary was one of several during regional raids in Orange and L.A. counties.

Updated 5:20 p.m. Friday. Here is the DEA press release link.

Authorities Thursday arrested a dozen people, including several from Long Beach, on federal drug trafficking charges for their alleged involvement in medical marijuana organizations.

The dozen are among 14 defendants named in a 14-count indictment returned last week by a federal grand jury. The indictment alleges a narcotics-trafficking conspiracy led by John Melvin Walker, 56, of San Clemente, who owned and operated nine marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The dispensaries named in the indictment that are operated by Walker are Alternative Herbal Health in Long Beach, Safe Harbor Collective in Dana Point, Garden Grove Alternative Care in Garden Grove, Santa Ana Superior Care in Santa Ana, Santa Fe Compassionate Health Care in Santa Fe Springs, Costa Mesa Patients Association in Costa Mesa, the Whittier Collective in Whittier, and APCC in San Juan Capistrano.

Most of the dispensaries have been closed, but investigators suspect several are still in operation, including Belmont Shore Natural Care, said Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney's Office. The indictment alleges the dispensaries generated tens of millions of dollars in income. It is illegal for medical marijuana dispensaries to make a profit.

Walker also faces a charge of being a felon in possession of firearms, including a handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun and an AK-47. Authorities seized the weapons and about $390,000 in cash from his home last year, Mrozek said.

The other defendants are: -- Ryan Aparicio Mondragon, 30, of Westminster, who is still at-large; -- Danielle Pamela Stebel, 25, of Long Beach; -- Nicholas Einar Lattu, 28, of Long Beach, who is still at-large; -- Ryan Scott Hunt, 36, of Fullerton; -- Perry Brooks Forehand, 33, of Mission Viejo; -- Nicholas Martin Butier III, 32, of Lakewood; -- Sierra Marina Serhan, 33, of Long Beach; -- Alvin Wesley Walker, 29, of Long Beach, who authorities believe is John Walker's nephew; -- John Eugene Scandalios, 59, of Lakewood; -- Karen Lee Leto, 70, of Huntington Beach; -- Craig Lawrence Leto, 49, of Newport Beach, who is Karen Leto's son; -- Michael Alan Nixon, 33, of Long Beach; and -- Alan David Nixon, 59, of Long Beach, who is Michael Nixon's father.

--City News Service with Nancy Wride

John B. Greet October 26, 2012 at 10:42 AM
When stumping for votes in 2008, Pres. Obama said: "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on (the medical marijuana") issue." http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080323/NEWS/803230336&cid=sitesearch In 2009, (after no doubt benefiting to a significant degree from that statement and getting elected) Pres. Obama, through his appointed Attorney General, Eric Holder, affirmed that: "...dispensaries operating in accord with California law would not be a priority for the administration." http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/us/19holder.html?_r=0 In April 2012, however, Obama's hypocrisy on this issue became readily apparent, as Politico noted that "the raids on drug dispensaries have kept up — despite a Justice Department memo formalizing low-enforcement priority" -and- " 'Obama has gone from being the greatest hope for marijuana reform to the greatest disappointment, and is now officially the worst president in terms of interference with state medical marijuana laws', (Marijuana Policy Project Spokesman Morgan) Fox said." http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/75421.html As on so many other issues of national significance, this President has also proven a grave disappointment on medpot. His record of across-the-board failures loudly argues against a second term.
Jillian Galloway October 26, 2012 at 04:00 PM
We keep hearing about "legalizing marijuana for recreational use", but what it really appears to be is an attempt to legalize marijuana as a far safer alternative to alcohol. According to the CDC, alcohol kills 80,000 people every year in the U.S. while marijuana kills none, and marijuana's addiction potential is only about that of coffee. Since marijuana is far safer and far less addictive than alcohol, we could GREATLY reduce the amount of harm and addiction in society by giving people the right to switch from the more harmful drug, alcohol, to the less harmful drug, marijuana. Paranoid old men are keeping marijuana illegal and making our children LESS safe.
John B. Greet October 26, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Good points, Jillian, but I would argue that our best defense against "paranoid old men" (many of which are not men but, also, women) is to assert more constructive control over those we elect to represent us in government. The ultimate responsibility to correct challenges regarding our government (at *any* level) lies squarely on the shoulders of the electors...the voters. We elect these folks and we have the power, through the electoral process, to remove them from office again and replace them with others who will do as we direct, subject as always to the rule of law. But we never seem to be able to muster sufficient energy or civic commitment to do so. Sadly.
Michael C. Smith October 26, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Come on! This can't be the best use of our limited resources.
John B. Greet October 26, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Mr. Smith, it is not. And just like the recent despicable *foreign* policy failure in Libya that resulted in the murder of four American citizens, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the ultimate responsibility for this on-going *domestic* policy failure must rest squarely with our current President. In previous public comments, Pres. Obama has attempted to blame Congress and the CSA for his continuing to target medpot clinics, even in States and localities that have de-criminalized and licensed them. The fact is, Pres. Obama does not need Congressional approval or action to move marijuana from CSA Schedule 1, such an action can be initiated *and completed* entirely within the Executive Branch. Instead of making that happen, however, he makes excuses and points fingers. This President needs to go.
Beguiled October 26, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Why was Belmont Shore Natural Care even open prior to the raid (which netted drugs and assault weapons)? Only one reason. Gary DeLong. On October 9, 2009, the registered agent for BSNC contributed $700 to DeLong's city council campaign fund. One month later, on November 9, 2009, the city council was poised to adopt an ordinance that would have precluded dispensaries from operating within 1000 feet of libraries. BSNC is located across the street from the Belmont Shore library and would have had to shut down. The registered agent (and DeLong campaign contributor) for BSNC came to the city council meeting on Nov 9, 2009 and asked to have the restriction (keeping dispensaries from being located near libraries) removed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4u5zrNM8cY. Not a single member of the community (other than BSNC's agent) asked for this change. Regardless, DeLong rewarded his campaign contributor and made a substitute motion that REMOVED the restriction on dispensaries being located near libraries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWptRtAkQNA. As a result, BSNC was allowed to remain open. And of course, we all now know that the store DeLong single-handidly kept open was a front for drug sales. Thanks Gary.
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Does Romney have a position on marijuana, legalizing, regulating like alcohol (Congressman Dana Rohrabacher supports this, as do a decent number of law enforcement, see this link). http://belmontshore.patch.com/blog_posts/congressman-dana-rohrabacher-endorses-regulate-marijuana-like-wine-initiative-by-sam-sabzehzar
John B. Greet October 26, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Gov. Romney does not appear to have expressed a specific position on medical marijuana. Earlier this month he told the Denver Post: "I oppose marijuana being used for recreational purposes and I believe the federal law should prohibit the recreational use of marijuana." Because medicinal use of marijuana is not rightly considered "recreational", it is not clear whether, if elected, Pres. Romney would direct his administration to move marijuana from Schedule 1 so that it can be legally prescribed by medical health professionals and legally dispensed from State-licensed pharmacies. Gov. Romney *has* said that his administration would enforce federal drug laws that prohibit marijuana for any use. That's not to say, however, that he wouldn't be open to changing the drug schedules once in office (as Obama could do *now* were he not so busy making excuses.) http://www.denverpost.com/nationalpolitics/ci_21676605/romney-wont-deport-young-illegals-who-have-temporary Rep. Ryan has said that he, personally, believes that medical marijuana is a matter that should be left entirely to the States, and I agree. So it seems reasonable to believe that, if elected as VPOTUS, he might work to influence Pres. Romney in that direction.
John B. Greet October 26, 2012 at 07:05 PM
*No* medpot outlets are authorized or licensed in Long Beach any longer as a matter of local law that Councilman DeLong voted with his colleagues to approve.
Watts October 26, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Marijuana is not as addictive as coffee. Coffee's addictive component is caffeine and that is highly addictive. Caffeine addiction includes both physical and psychological elements. I still regularly drink coffee, but at one point in my life I used to drink about a pot (12 measured cups) a day and I knew that I had to get off that and I went cold turkey and suffered from paralyzing headaches, vomiting, etc. all alongside feelings of almost desperation over not having my coffee (I have never been much of a consumer of other sources like soda or chocolate). With Marijuana, there is no component for physical addiction and there are arguments made both for and against the idea that it may be psychologically addictive. For instance, if somebody who may have regularly smoked pot, suddenly goes without it, is their wanting to then get weed again a sign of psychological addiction or is it just the "I miss my pot" affect? But even if you accept the idea that there is the potential of some psychological addiction to marijuana, it still wouldn't be considered as addictive as caffeine because there is no component that leads to physical addiction.
Watts October 26, 2012 at 07:35 PM
@Derrick Were did you get that idea from? I used to run into Emilio over at Seaside Grill and I never even got the impression that he smoked pot. And if, on some outside chance, you are correct about this, do you really think that it is appropriate to post here? It certainly isn't anything that is public knowledge and Emilio wasn't a public figure. True or not (and I don't believe that is true), it is in bad taste to make such a post.
S.A.P. October 26, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Derrick Fenley, you are incorrect
Barbie November 02, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Total waste of taxpayer dollars to go on with the failed war on drugs. Legalize it already.
Alana Juanita Mayhew November 03, 2012 at 01:13 AM
For myself one of these people listed above is not only a lifetime friend, but also the father of my unborn child. The consequences he's facing seem extremely harsh. Seems like they have more compassion for people who are violent, or even people who hurt children. I can't even begin to express my sadness at the thought that we wont be able to raise our child together with a mother and a father actively involved in my babies life is a scary thought. So I'm doing my very best to not allow those thoughts to get the best of me, especially because I have to be emotionally and mentally and physically ok for the child growing inside me. I ask that everyone sends their good energy and thoughts and prayers his way. Thanks again. =)
Barbie November 03, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Alana, your post brought tears to my eyes. Stay at peace, breathe and find a way to smile. You are strong. Positive energy coming your way.


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