Several members of a Southern Humboldt family were arrested in a series of pot busts last week.
On March 13 at about 11:30am, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department Drug Enforcement Unit, Humboldt County Drug Task Force, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and the California Highway Patrol served five search warrants in the Briceland and Myers Flat areas. The first search warrant was served at William and Emma Boldt's residence in Briceland. Officers located 833 growing marijuana plants that ranged in size from 6 inches to 3 feet from three indoor marijuana-growing sites. Officers seized $48,000 in cash and 138 gold coins worth an estimated $55,000 from the Boldts' home. Officers also seized 26 firearms. William Boldt and his wife, Emma Boldt, were arrested for cultivation and possession for sale of marijuana.
Officers then served search warrants at four locations in the Myers Flat area. Officers served 2 search warrants at two residence and two indoor marijuana-growing operations. The search warrants were served at the homes of Faron and Charles Boldt - Emma and William Boldt's sons. The two indoor grow operations located on the Boldts' property contained 1,186 growing marijuana plants that ranged in size from 8 inches to 18 inches. Officers seized methamphetamine from inside Charles Boldt's residence. A total of $9,000 in cash was taken from the two residences, along with 35 firearms.
When officers served the search warrants at Faron and Charles Boldt's residences they found Kenneth Eldridge inside the residence. Eldridge told the officers that he lived about a half-mile from the Boldts' property. According to the Sheriff's Department, Eldridge gave permission to the officers to search his residence; there they found two indoor grow sites that contained 848 growing marijuana plants that ranged in size from 1 inche to 12 inches.
The officers arrested Faron Boldt, 38, Charles Boldt, 41, and Kenneth Eldridge, 39, for cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale.
The case is still under investigation.
Police are calling it the largest marijuana bust of the year. Officers from six law enforcement agencies seized more than three thousand plants Thursday afternoon at six different grow sites operated by the same family.
William, Emma, Faron, and Charles Boldt were arrested on felony drug charges during the raids. A fifth man, Kenneth Eldridge was also arrested for operating a seventh grow. Officers seized more than a hundred thousand dollars in cash and gold coins and 52 guns.
All of the grows, one of which was hidden underground, were found in the hills surrounding Briceland and Myers Flat. Sergeant Wayne Hanson says the raid highlights the need for continued enforcement of state marijuana laws. The four Boldt's are already out of jail on bail.
Two people running supplies to Humboldt tree-sitters busted
Eureka Times Standard - May 16, 2002
Kneeland- -- Two people who claimed to be returning from hauling supplies to Humboldt County tree sitters were arrested on drug charges.
Sheriff's deputies say the pair was arrested after officers responding to reports of a suspicious vehicle in Kneeland found them with hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana.
David Wolman of New Jersey was booked late Tuesday for investigation of possession and transportation of mushrooms. Amy Arcuri of Eureka was booked for investigation of possession and transportation of marijuana for sale.
Fire leads to pot grow
By The Times-Standard
Article Last Updated: Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 6:12:58 AM PST
PHILLIPSVILLE -- The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department was called in by the California Department of Forestry after firefighters discovered marijuana grows while fighting a diesel fire Saturday.
The Sheriff's Department said the CDF was called to an area off Spring Canyon Road around 3 a.m. to check on reports of a large generator that caught fire. Firefighters discovered that the generator was supplying power to indoor marijuana growing operations.
Deputies obtained a search warrant and found two pot grows on the property. A combined total of 789 plants were found, all ranging in size from 8 to 10 inches.
Investigators learned that a large amount of diesel fuel may have been spilled during the fire.
The California Department of Fish and Game was notified because of a pond located about 50 yards from the generator. The Humboldt County Department of Environmental Health was also called because of the fuel spill.
No arrests were made and the case is still under investigation.
More explosives found in search of man's home
By Chris Durant The Times-Standard
Article Last Updated: Saturday, July 12, 2003 - 6:13:13 AM PST
ARCATA -- A man arrested in Blue Lake on drunken driving charges Thursday, with a Jeep full of explosives and fireworks, was allegedly growing marijuana and had more explosives in his home.
The Blue Lake Police Department said officers served a warrant on the Arcata apartment of Gregory Frank Webber, 25, Thursday evening and found five "destructive devices", or homemade bombs, parts to make more explosives, seven guns, more than 500 rounds of ammunition, a small amount of hashish, several pounds of illegal fireworks and 134 growing marijuana plants.
Two homemade bombs, illegal fireworks and ammunition was found in his truck after he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving Thursday.
Blue Lake Police Chief Dave Gunderson said the circuits in Webber's apartment were nearly overloaded because of the marijuana grow lights.
"There was enough explosives there to level the whole complex," Gunderson said.
Gunderson said it would have been disastrous if a fire had broken out in the apartment. Webber was keeping the illegal fireworks near numerous flammable liquids.
The weaponss included handguns, rifles and a shotgun. A crossbow was also found. Some of the ammunition included a 40mm artillery shell and several .50-caliber sub machine gun rounds.
Gunderson said nothing was found in the apartment that looked like it could launch the artillery shells. Gunderson plans on contacting the military about the shells.
About $800 in cash was also found, but some bills appear to be counterfeit. Gunderson learned that Webber recently made a "substantial" deposit into a local bank and would be investigating that as well.
In addition to the drunken driving and explosive charges Webber accrued Thursday, he was also booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, possession of hashish, possession of marijuana for sale, storage of explosives and storage of fireworks near flammable liquid.
A search of Webber's storage unit failed to reveal any other violations.
One of the defendants in a 1998 homicide case linked to marijuana money has been convicted of first-degree murder.
Joshua Edward Kirtley's sentencing hearing on the murder conviction will be held June 23, when he'll be punished for his role in the murder of Paul Dominic Sanders in the Honeydew area of Southern Humboldt. A co-defendant, Kenneth Alan Wold, i slaos charged with first-degree murdera nd he;ll soon be tried
In 1998, Sanders, Kirtley and Wolf were growing marijuana at the ranch they live on off Wilder Ridge Road outside of Honeydew, and arrangement that soured when $5,000 of Kiertley's profits disappeared. Deputy District Attorney Rob Wade, the case's lead prosecutor, said Kirtley, who was 20 years old at the time, and Wolf confronted the 30-year-old Sanders about the missing money and their interrogation escalated from a prolonged beating with a baseball bat to a fasta shooting.
Sander's body was dumped at a nearby ranch and was undiscovered until last year. A witness, Kirtley's girlfriend, told police about the killing after Kirtley was arrested for domestic assault against her. Sander's body was recovered on June 16, a few days after Kirtley was arrested on the domestic violence charge.
During court proceedings, Kirtley denied using the shotgun that killed Sanders, but Wade said that both defendants collaborated on a murder that was planned and linked to the missing marijuana profits. "The information presented in the court refelcted that the victim wa beaten by both defendants and subsequently shot --- they were acting together and the jury found that premeditated murder took place," said Wade. "[Kiretley and Wolf] acted in concert, and both intended that [Sanders] be killed."
Wolf's preliminary hearing on his murder charge is set for June 30.
Manila Community Services director arrested on federal pot charges
By Chris Durant The Times-Standard
Thursday, July 31, 2003
MANILA -- A federal search warrant was served on the home of Manila Community Services District Director Timothy Andrew Dellas on Wednesday morning, and authorities took him into custody on a federal arrest warrant.
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department said deputies from the Drug Enforcement Unit assisted FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in serving the warrants shortly before 7 a.m.
The arrest warrant, issued out of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleges federal charges of manufacturing and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
Dellas, 47, was booked into the Humboldt County Jail and is awaiting transport to San Francisco.
The charges stem from a raid in early June on property off Elk River Road in Briceland. Authorities found 5,656 marijuana plants, 20 one-pound bags of processed pot and 180 grow lights.
Dellas was arrested at the scene and later posted $20,000 bail. He's been out on bail since.
A Manila Community Services District spokeswoman said Dellas will remain director and a member of the board unless he's either convicted of the charges or resigns.
San Francisco - In her first court appearance since being indicted on counts of using her generator sales business as a money-laundering operation, Sandra Ross on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to all charges
Thise charges include one count of money laundering and 28 counts of failure to file an information return for receiving $10,000 or more in a cash transaction. The charges stem from a 1999 Internal Revenue Service sting in which an undercover agent allegedly bought a generator from Ross -- $25,300 cash -- at Generators Parts Service, the business she used to own in Redway's Meadows Business Park. According to transcripts of their tape-recorded exchanges, the agent represented himself to Ross as a marijuana grower.
At last Wednesday's hearing in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Ross entered her please and was scheduled for two more court dates: one preliminary hearing on Jan. 2, and another on Jan 8, at whcih a trial date is to be set.
The crimes carry a cumulative maximum of more than $70,000 in fines an dup to 160 years in prison.
EUREKA - A Southern California man caught with more than 50,000 fake doses of LSD last fall will take a trip to jail.
William Felton Butler, 27, of Tuston, was convicted recently by a Humboldt County jury of selling or furnishing a substance falsely represented to be a controlled substance, a felony which carries up to three years in jail or state prison.
Butler, who will be sentenced next month, actually faces more than 11 years in prison because the jury also convicted him on felony charges of assault, robbery and kidnapping.
Two Humboldt State students alleged that late last September, Butler forced them to give him money and drive him to Pismo Beach in Southern California in one of the student's cars.
Butler denied the allegation, maintaining that he offered the students 10 sheets of the LSD each for the ride.
Butler was arrested in early October in Arcata, when one of the students told his father what happened. Initial field tests by the Arcata Police Department tested positive for LSD, but later tests by the California Department of Justice proved otherwise.
Blue Lake hash oil project goes kaboom
By Kevin L. Hoover, Eye Editor
Users of mind-altering drugs may well be familiar
with the hallucinatory sensation that their face is melting. Last
week in Blue Lake, a drug processing session ended abruptly with
that nightmare coming horribly true for two individuals.
Now, authorities are seeking a Eureka woman who escaped the scene on multiple felony charges.
About 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 12, a loud explosion blew out the windows of a home at 641 Fourth Avenue. Witnesses saw two figures running from the flaming house, one of them kneeling to douse him or herself in a puddle.
Though two suspects escaped, one remained at the scene. Jason Davis was rushed to Mad River Community Hospital with first and second-degree burns to his face and hands. “The skin was dripping off,” said Blue Lake Police Chief Dave Gunderson. Davis was later arrested on a charge of manufacturing a controlled substance.
The Blue Lake Fire Department responded to the scene and extinguished the house fire, Damage was estimated to be in excess of $10,000.
It was later determined that two females involved in the incident had received treatment for their burns at St. Joseph Hospital. One, an unidentified 17-year-old girl, received the most severe burns. The other, Crystal Nicole Stewart, 21, remains at large. She wanted on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance; unlawfully causing a fire that causes great bodily injury; unlawfully causing a fire where a structure burns; and an additional charge of mayhem added over the weekend.
The 17-year-old was just “along for the ride” at Stewart’s invitation, said BLPD Sgt. Darcy Seal.
Though neighbors initially thought a clandestine methamphetamine
lab had exploded, police said Stewart, Davis and the girl had actually
been directing Davis in the creation of a liquid form of hashish
or concentrated marijuana with the use of butane gas. The hash distillation
took place both in Davis’ bedroom and an adjacent bathroom.
The process involves placing marijuana inside two-liter plastic beverage bottles and pumping the butane through. The gas draws resins from the marijuana, which are collected as the butane exits the bottle. Websites which describe this process deem the resulting THC-laden liquid “honey oil.”
Because of butane’s explosive nature, experienced honey oil makers recommend that the process only be performed in an extremely well-ventilated area – outside, ideally, with a breeze blowing.
Instead, the home hashmakers emptied numerous butane bottles inside the Fourth Street house with just one bathroom window open. The hash oil along with some condensed moisture had been collected in a bowl. The fateful final step of the procedure, Gunderson said, was to heat the bowl and evaporate the moisture, “leaving you your nice, gooey oil.”
But at this point, things went awry. Stewart, reportedly acting as teacher to the others and offering tips like “Don’t be an amateur,” allegedly attempted to burn off residual moisture from the bowl of oil with use of the torch.
Accounts from Davis and the 17-year old vary as to what happened next. The torch’s high flame startled Stewart, Gunderson said, with catastrophic results. One version held that “she panicked because she turned the flame up too high and dropped the torch,” he said. Another account held that the flame was too high and when Stewart attempted to turn it down, she turned it up instead.
In any case, when the flame contacted the low cloud of heavy butane gas which had accumulated in the house, an explosion ensued.
“It went whoosh,” Gunderson explained.
“The fireball flew out and hit me straight in the face,” said Jermaine Brubaker, an uninvolved tenant in the rented house (see letter, above right). “I lost a lot of hair and eyebrows.”
The blast devastated the home, scorching walls melting fixtures and severely burning the hash vintners. “It looked like a war zone,” Gunderson said. The force of the blast blew out windows, leaving Venetian blinds “all blown out and tangled,” Gunderson said.
Last Wednesday, Blue Lake Police discovered that the
two then-missing females had received medical treatment. Stewart’s
baby, which wasn’t in the house at the time of the explosion,
was found unharmed in Eureka.
On Friday, Blue Lake officers acted on a tip that Stewart was in Manila and went knocking on doors there, but to no avail. BLPD continues to coordinate with Eureka Police and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.
At week’s end, the badly burned 17-year-old was located and interviewed. She had told her mother that she’d “fallen into a fire,” Seal said. “But her mother read about it in the paper and put two and two together.”
The girl, who sustained the most severe facial burns, will require plastic surgery.
Two dogs were in the home at the time of the explosion. One, Lance, a brindle-colored disappeared. The other, Kiva, a white, long-haired shaggy dog, didn’t remain that way. “It’s now a skinhead,” Gunderson said.
Anyone with information on Stewart’s whereabouts is asked to call BLPD at (707) 668-5895.
Brubaker, who was not involved with Stewart’s alleged master hashmaking class but who must now apply herself to growing back her hair and eyelashes, summarized the incident: “It was stupid with a capital S,” she said.
Marijuana and hashish or “hash” are rich in THC, a complex drug which induces euphoria and “happy anxiety” in users, along with memory loss, mild paranoia, food cravings and free-associative thought processes among other effects.
Users, several of whom are believed to reside in Humboldt County, refer to this state as being “stoned” or “high.”
D.A. upping medical marijuana limit to 99 plants
By Daniel Mintz, Eye Reporter
Humboldt County’s legal limit on the amount
of marijuana allowed to residents that have prescriptions for it
will soon jump from 10 plants to 99, District Attorney Paul Gallegos
has announced, and he’ll enact further prosecution guidelines
geared toward ensuring patients’ rights.
A more direct local translation of Proposition 215, the state’s medical marijuana law, is a “high priority,” Gallegos said. The process of reforming the County’s marijuana protocols is his first – and most attention-getting – move since being sworn in earlier this month.
Gallegos also indicated that he doesn’t want to prosecute cases that involve small, “personal use” amounts of non-prescribed marijuana. His preference is to target methamphetamine instead.
Medical marijuana advocates have long said that the county has been slow and sometimes obstructive in interpreting Prop. 215. The gulf between federal and state laws has been cited by law enforcement officials as a complication, but Gallegos has informed the U.S. Attorney’s Office that he views Prop. 215 as a mandate he must follow.
“My job is to enforce state law,” Gallegos said flatly.
He’ll also allow up to three pounds of dried buds in addition to growing plants. That allows patients to have a supply of medicine on-hand between harvests.
A second but perhaps more salient yardstick for determining legal amounts of medical marijuana will be surface area – Gallegos said patients will be allowed 99 plants, or whatever number fits in a 100-square-foot area, based on canopy measurement. That would theoretically allow a greater or lesser plant number than 99, depending on the size of the plants.
Finally, a cap of 1,500 watts will be set for powering indoor grows.
Patients’ documentation of their doctors’ recommendations will likely have more weight when shown to police. In interviews, one high-ranking Sheriff’s official has scoffed at using marijuana for conditions like premenstrual syndrome, alcoholism and depression.
Gallegos wants those determinations to be forwarded by doctors, not police. “Police shouldn’t ask what prescriptions are for or question their legitimacy,” he said.
The soon-to-be discarded 10-plant limit was set by
Terry Farmer, the county’s previous D.A., and patients insisted
they couldn’t adhere to it and still have enough medicine
to effectively fulfill their doctors’ recommendations.
That’s because only female plants produce the buds that patients use as medicine. When plants mature, their sex is determined and the unusable male plants – which make up half of the grow – are separated out.
In Farmer’s time, most police announcements of over-the-limit medical marijuana confiscations weren’t taken seriously, as patients insisted that counting immature, unusable plants was unreasonable.
Medicinal marijuana reform was a linchpin of Gallegos’ election campaign. He agrees that a 10-plant limit is way too low for adequate medical treatment. Though he specified that his guidelines are in the form of a rough draft, he said he’s already had meetings with law enforcement officials and felt confident enough about the new limits to announce them.
“Our job is to ascertain the truth. Citing plant numbers that don’t relate to the significance of the grow is not what we’re after. If the grow is low yield, we’ll want to know that. If the plants are in early growth stages and are non-sexed, we want to assess it that way... ultimately, what we’re interested in is usable product.”
Still to be decided, Gallegos continued, are guidelines that delineate the legality of “caregiving,” or the growing of plants for use by one or more patients. Proposition 215’s provisions for caregivers and patients don’t specify limits.
Gallegos is also thinking about including some provisions that account for stem and leaf weight in confiscated cannabis. Defining the medicinal use of marijuana in baked goods and production of concentrated “hash” is also under consideration.
His intent is to forward guidelines that are more relevant to Prop.215, but limit production enough to avoid federal intervention (the Feds view possession of any amount of marijuana for any reason as a crime, but generally only get involved in cases that involve hundreds of plants).
“We’ve got to balance the interest of law enforcement, and we do have to give some deference to federal law so we don’t have the U.S. Attorney’s Office in here prosecuting people,” Gallegos said. “But our position is, police shouldn’t be taking lawful property.”
Once finalized, the new guidelines will be put on the county’s website and printed on laminated cards that will be given both to police and patients.
Meth, not pot
Sheriff’s Department officers have been criticized
for disregarding 215 documentation and going ahead with medical
cannabis confiscations that sometimes don’t yield charges.
Deputies routinely secure search warrants based on presence of odor,
in some cases confiscating grows when no one is present and without
knowing if the cannabis is used medicinally or not.
Gallegos’ imminent guidelines may not motivate police to change those protocols, but when it comes to prosecution, he’ll uphold patients’ rights as a priority, he said. And he has a distaste for some elements of county marijuana enforcement to this point.
“Historically, I think, what’s happened is that people’s rights have been disregarded,” said Gallegos. “We need to find a better balance.”
A balance between community consensus and law enforcement also needs to be struck, he continued. And he wants to divert enforcement resources away from marijuana and towards elimination of a substance that the community agrees should be targeted – methamphetamine.
“I think there will be a re-direction of resources,” said Gallegos. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office knows that this community feels there is greater need for meth eradication. The community’s perception is that we’re spending all our resources on marijuana and turning our backs on meth.”
He’s also concerned about a dearth of treatment opportunities. “We led the state in heroin-related deaths and we don’t have a methadone clinic,”
Gallegos pointed out. Widely recognized as a drug that allows addicts to wean themselves off heroin without debilitating withdrawal symptoms, methadone could save lives here, he said.
“Marijuana is such a low priority in light of other concerns,” Gallegos continued.
The prosecution standards of unprescribed marijuana
will also change. Gallegos acknowledged that cases involving smaller
amounts of so-called black market cannabis are prosecutable, but
he said “the question is, do we want to proceed on them?”
They soak up too much of the county’s limited law enforcement resources, Gallegos believes. He suggested that modest possession isn’t worth the effort in a community that doesn’t view it as a pressing problem.
“This office has been filing cases on people who only have a couple of joints on them – the question is whether we should be doing that.”
Asked to answer the question, Gallegos said prosecuting personal use amounts is “ridiculous – I don’t think we should be doing it.”
The Arcata alternative
That philosophy contrasts the way things are done
in Arcata, where site-specific police campaigns at the City’s
downtown Plaza and in Redwood Park hinge on low-level marijuana
arrests, usually of homeless youths that are said to be harassing
Small-scale marijuana arrests are also generally common in Arcata. In one case, an Arcata officer arrested a woman for marijuana possession based on the presence of residue in a confiscated glass pipe.
Some residents believe that the Arcata City Council should approve an ordinance that defines marijuana as a low enforcement priority. And after a new police chief was hired two years ago, patients grasped for clarification of City policy when a municipal I.D. card program was apparently shelved.
But despite an early commitment to Proposition 215 in the form of a 1997 medical marijuana ordinance, the council has been mute on cannabis-related issues.
Gallegos swept Arcata in the D.A. election, and has emerged as a torchlight for residents who advocate for clearer, more progressive enforcement policies. But he doesn’t want to give marijuana producers too much leeway.
“The large-scale, industrial production of marijuana in the county is offensive to me, “ Gallegos said. “This is not a wealthy community – we have budget problems and we are experiencing shortfalls in juvenile and mental health services. We’re losing money across the board, and if growers are turning huge profits tax-free, that hurts the community.”
Gallegos wants to use alternatives to prison whenever possible, though. “What we want is compliance,” he said. “I think there are enough people in prison on marijuana charges. I prefer to use forfeiture to make them disgorge their profits, and probation with search and seizure clauses (which allow random police searches of probationers).”
He is in favor of marijuana legalization. “It’s worth trying,” he said. “If it’s legalized, it could probably be better regulated, as alcohol is. I think kids have an easier time getting marijuana than they do alcohol, and marijuana has less social costs and is less addictive.”
When youngsters realize that , Gallegos continued, they develop a distrust for what they’re told about all drugs.
“We become hypocrites to our kids – if we lie about one drug, they assume we will lie to them about the others,” Gallegos said.”
Pipe makers free on own recognizance|
By Chris Durant, Eureka Times-Standard
Wednesday, February 26, 2003 -
EUREKA -- After one night in jail, the three Arcata men arrested early Monday morning on federal indictments alleging illegal drug paraphernalia trafficking were freed on their own recognizance Tuesday.
Ryan Teurfs, Jason Vrbas and Gabriel Watson, all 29 and owners of 101 North Glass at 550 S. G St. in Arcata, were clad in orange jumpsuits with their hands shackled to their sides as they entered the federal courtroom a few blocks from the Humboldt County Jail.
The courtroom was packed with about 60 employees of the business, family members and supporters. Before and after the proceeding the employees and supporters stood in front of the federal courthouse holding up signs saying "Free 101 North Glass" and shouting "glass blowing isn't a crime."
Federal Magistrate Larry B. Nord presided over the one-hour proceeding that was mostly filling out paperwork pertaining to their release.
The three reserved their rights to enter their pleas until they go before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh on March 7.
Since the Drug Enforcement Administration froze all of their accounts, business and personal, it was determined that the U.S. Marshal's Office will purchase one-way airline tickets for the three; they're responsible for paying for their return flight from Pennsylvania.
When the proceeding was over, Nord turned to the defendants and wished them good luck.
The indictments are the result of the federal DEA's "Operation Pipe Dreams" and were handed up by a federal grand jury in western Pennsylvania.
The indictments named 55 people throughout the nation who are accused of selling or conspiring to sell products the DEA considers mainly intended for the use of illegal drugs.
"Everything we offer or sell has the word tobacco on it," Vrbas said. "We are not a paraphernalia company."
Teurfs, Vrbas and Watson were released from the Humboldt County Jail shortly after noon.
"I found out what we were doing was illegal when I was face down in my front yard yesterday," Vrbas said Tuesday afternoon.
All three owners said they have never had any problems with local law enforcement.
"They've been into our shop, they know what we do and have never had a problem with it," Teurfs said.
Eric Blake, employee and former manager of 101 North Glass said the company has always paid its taxes and has been run legitimately since it was founded.
"The government has never had a problem taking my money," Teurfs said.
Vrbas said he's concerned with the future of his employees.
"There's pregnant women who don't have medical coverage now," Vrbas said.
The company provided two kinds of health insurance for its employees.
"They're also holding all payroll checks," Vrbas said.
Blake said the indictments and arrests were "an extreme shock to everyone."
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said during a Monday press conference in Washington, D.C., that companies that sold paraphernalia over the Internet were mainly targeted.
"We do nothing on the Internet," Vrbas said.
Vrbas said the 101 North Glass Internet site was only for catalog and reference purposes.
"We only sell to retail stores," Vrbas said.
He said that when an order is made the retailer's resale number is thoroughly checked.
"The next step is March 7," Teurfs said.
The three are trying to hire attorneys.
"They froze my accounts," Vrbas said. "I'm supposed to hire an attorney with no money?"
If convicted of the charges, each face up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Feds raid Arcata glassblowing firm|
Three owners charged with selling drug paraphernalia
by GEOFF S. FEIN
Ryan Teurfs, Jason Vrbas and Gabriel Watson, owners of 101 North Glass, Inc. in Arcata, were each freed on a $10,000 bond Tuesday, one day after being arrested on federal charges for conspiracy to sell drug paraphernalia.
The trio must now appear in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Pa., on March 7. If convicted, they could face up to three years in prison and fines of several hundred thousand dollars.
Co-workers expressed shock and anger at the arrests. Complaints were aimed in part at federal agents who raided the business Monday and shut it down, putting about 50 employees and sub-contractors who rent space at 101 North Glass out of work.
The raid was part of a series of raids that took place across the country on Monday.
Richard Meyer, spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's San Francisco office, said the nationwide investigation has been going on for more than a year. He said the DEA was targeting only large scale distributors of drug paraphernalia.
"Local authorities deal with the [head] shops," Meyer said.
A press release issued by the Justice Department on Monday stated that the investigations, dubbed Operation Pipedreams and Operation Headhunter, are an attempt to crack down on drug paraphernalia sales over the Internet.
"With the advent of the Internet, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has exploded," U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said in the release. "The drug paraphernalia business is now accessible in anyone's home with a computer and Internet access."
Acting DEA Administrator John Brown said people selling drug paraphernalia are no different than drug dealers.
"They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide," he said in the press release.
Dale Gieringer, California coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in the East Bay, said the raids were an "absurd waste of law enforcement resources."
The pipes 101 North Glass sells are just common pipes available at any store that sells pipes, he said.
"These are artistic [pipes] with cultural content. The attorney general disapproves of that culture," Gieringer said. "It's a joke. It's a crusade by moralists afraid of colorful bongs [instead of] guns."
101 North Coast's Internet site only offers the company's wares to wholesalers and does not make sales to individuals.
Teurfs, Vrbas and Watson did not enter pleas during an arraignment proceeding Tuesday that attracted about 30 supporters.
In January, a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania indicted the three Arcata men along with about 50 others from across the country.
The company had about $50,000 to $100,000 worth of inventory at its 550 South G Street location. According to one employee who was at the store during the raid, an agent asked that the company's security cameras be turned off during the search.
Fern Thomas, the company's bookkeeper and Vrbas' fiancee, said it looked like a lot of the company's inventory had been seized.
Agents arrived at 101 North Glass in 15 different vehicles and a U-haul truck to haul items away. For seven hours federal agents blocked the entrance to all the businesses in the small industrial complex.
101 North Glass employees arriving for work Monday were not allowed to enter the business.
DEA agents took boxes of the company's inventory of glass pipes and other glass merchandise along with the company's computers and record books, according to several employees.
"Hundreds of people who blow glass won't be able to get [their] raw materials," said one employee.
Thomas, 29, was at Vrbas' home when the feds showed up.
"I wasn't worried at first," Thomas said. "I thought [they were at the] wrong house."
Agents then cuffed Thomas and Vrbas for more than two hours while they searched the house. Eventually Thomas was released.
According to Thomas, agents told her she could leave, or stay and remain handcuffed until they finished their search.
Among the items taken from Vrbas' home were photos albums. Thomas couldn't say what was in the albums; but agents returned one of the books with all the pictures removed.
She told another co-worker that all of the company's manufacturing equipment is still there, but if any of it is used to make pipes it will be confiscated.
The company's computer server was also seized. It contains all of 101 North Glass' financial information. Thomas was told the DEA won't return it for at least 30 days. Until the computer is returned employees may not get paid, she added.
"They have all our info, all our files," Thomas told a co-worker.
Thomas spoke with Vrbas from the Humboldt County Jail on Monday night. She said all three men were doing fine.
"They are very concerned about their employees and their families," Thomas said.
A BUDDING PROPOSITION - Arcata serves as role model for state
Pot Ordinance Passes Muster
Incidents at the Incident (String Cheese Incident Shroom Bust)
Mushroom Permits Available
City of Arcata Medical Marijuana Ordinance
Feds raid Arcata glassblowing firm