This story has been updated.
Federal prosecutors say the owner and administrator of a local marijuana production facility arranged the illegal disposal of more than 1,500 pounds of hazardous waste on public and private property in San Diego county.
The seven-page indictment alleges that Lunar Loussia, a part-owner of WellgreensCA, and company administrator Nadia Malloian conspired to illegally dump 28 drums filled with contaminated ethanol, which was used for the production of THC oil.
According to the June 19 indictment, the defendants used an unlicensed garbage hauler to remove the 55-gallon drums of ethanol from the company's headquarters on Trade Street, near Miramar Road. Each drum held 55-gallons of the toxic fuel.
The defendants allegedly paid the hauler in cash to dispose of the dangerous material at unlicensed sites, without filing the required paperwork, according to the complaint.
Beginning in February of 2018, the ethanol was allegedly dumped at the following locations:
- The intersection of State Routes 52 and 125
- Jamacha Road in El Cajon
- Avocado Avenue in El Cajon
- Logan Avenue in San Diego
Anthony Avilla, a security guard at the strip mall on Logan Avenue, showed NBC 7 Investigates where he spotted at least one of the ethanol drums back in June of 2018.
"That's insane," said Avilla. "That's crazy. Children could have gotten hurt. It's horrible."
UPDATE: On July 22, 2019, federal prosecutors dismissed two of 11 criminal charges filed against the defendants. Those allegations involved the alleged dumping of hazardous waste on Logan Avenue. Prosecutors have the option of refiling those charges if they develop new evidence of illegal dumping at the Logan Avenue location.
Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates confirm that WellgreensCA, Inc. -- doing business as Trade Street, LLC -- obtained a Conditional Use Permit in September of 2018 to operate a 7,200 square foot marijuana production facility.
A city spokesperson confirmed with NBC 7 that WellgreensCA is one of 40 permitted cannabis production facilities in the City of San Diego.
The alleged illegal dumping happened before WellgreensCA obtained that permit, but the company's attorney told NBC 7 that the facility had been "subject to multiple inspections, and was always in full compliance" with the law, because it had a business tax license.
"Wellgreens California did not know these drums were being illegally dumped," Attorney Vikas Bajaj added.
Bajaj said a conflict between state and federal cannabis regulations caused the company to get caught up in what he described as "the evil necessity of having to hire a consultant to advise them on the regulations."
Bajaj blamed that consultant for the allegedly illegal dumping.
An attorney for defendant Nadia Malloian, identified in the indictment as a WellgreensCA administrator, said Malloian's job duties did not include the handling or disposal of ethanol.
"It's frankly a mystery to us why the U.S. Attorney's office would charge Ms. Malloian in this indictment," said attorney Eugene Iredale.
Company co-owner Lunar Loussia's attorney Michael Pancer told NBC 7 that he just got the case, and hasn't had time to study the complaint or comment on the charges.
The problem of illegal ethanol dumping and dangers related to cannabis and hash oil production are not new in San Diego County.
A county spokesman said that the Environmental Health Department responds to about 30 incidents annually of "fires, explosions, and endangerment to the public" caused by legal and illegal marijuana and hash oil operations.