Some of the dozen suspects accused of illegally selling drugs from two medicinal marijuana dispensaries in San Diego County cried in federal court Monday when they learned the charges they face.
More than 20 family members and friends of the accused drug dealers stood outside the court room on the first floor of federal court Monday morning, desperate for any information about their loved ones, who are accused of illegal drug sales and money laundering. They couldn’t get seats inside because the small courtroom of Magistrate Anthony Battaglia was filled long before the scheduled start of the morning hearing.
One of the very emotional would-be spectators at one point asked the bailiff to remove members of the media from the courtroom, so family members could get a seat. The bailiff refused and warned the woman she would be ejected from the courthouse if she didn't calm down.
Monick Dunn described her brother, Justin Matthew Hunt, one of the defendants in the multi-million dollar marijuana and money-laundering case, as an educated man.
“He's smart,” she said. “He's not a criminal."
Dunn said her brother was an employee at the Green Kross Collective and that he always assumed he was working within the law to help clients who had legal, doctor-approved access to medical marijuana.
"He was here to help patients," Dunn said. "He got caught up in something he's not aware of."
According to a 22-page indictment released Friday, Hunt and 11 other suspects used the Green Kross Collective in Mission Beach and the downtown Kush Lounge in the Gaslamp District to grow and import thousands of pounds of marijuana and then sold it legally and illegally.
In the last year, federal agents served five search warrants in San Diego, along with two warrants served in Los Angeles, and monitored the suspects using wiretaps, watching security tape and intercepting text messages.
At one point, federal agents identified the suspects through video surveillance captured from the Ivy Hotel downtown, according to court documents.
At the center of the probe is Joshua John Hester, who was arrested Friday morning in his West Hollywood home. By the looks of his Facebook profile image, Hester appears to reflect the image of a tony lifestyle. Among his Facebook "friends," you'll find former Charger Kassim Osgood.
Federal agents allege that Hester went to great lengths to make it appear he was not connected to the two dispensaries, but they claim he managed both locations.
Hester, along with co-defendants Rex Naanos and Jay Hansen, faces charges of conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.
Attorney Marc Carlos, who represents defendant Jay Hansen, said his client faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, if convicted.
Carlos said it was a "very emotional" scene inside the courtroom, as several of the defendants, who he said have no criminal background, or at most a misdemeanor, heard the stiff sentences they face if convicted.
Tara Hester and Justin Hunt, aka Justblackk DaNazarite Hunt, managed the Green Kross Collective according to agents. Alec Pacillas, Zachary Dickinson and Stephanie Tine managed the Kush Lounge, investigators said.
Tara Hester, Joshua John Hester, Dickinson, Hunt, Tine, Pacillas and Ryan Michael White face charges of conspiracy to distribute more then 100 kilograms of marijuana.
Agents also allege that Joshua John Hester and his girlfriend laundered drug money through the mortgage payment on a home at 15702 Circo Diegueno in Rancho Santa Fe. Kelsey Lynn Weidenhoefer, a full-time grad student, was the listed owner of the mansion that she purchased in 2007 with a down payment of $212,000 from her bank account, investigators said.