Ten months after a raid at a medical marijuana distribution company, there are still no charges against the former business owner, who says San Diego police have yet to return his and his family’s assets.
“The last 10 months have been very stressful.” said James Slatic. “I mean, I put my life's savings into this and where am I now?”
Slatic is now the former CEO of Med-West Distribution, a company he says was legal. But everything changed on the morning of January 28.
“They came through the door with a sledge hammer and 28 armored, helmet-wearing automatic weapon-carrying SWAT guys,” he said.
San Diego police and DEA agents detained and then arrested two of Slatic’s employees who were later released. Within a matter of hours, they had seized everything, including $324,000.
“I can’t afford to be optimistic, I have to be pessimistic," he said.
The medical marijuana business was shut down and 35 employees lost their jobs. The building where Slatic’s city and state permits once hung is now vacant, even the parking lot has “no parking signs” surrounding it.
Slatic told NBC 7, that’s not even the worst of it.
The raid has gone beyond the company. Within days, police had also frozen Slatic’s, his wife’s and his daughters’ personal bank accounts. Then in June, they seized all of the money in their accounts.
“They've taken it and now we have to prove why the money is not guilty and to give it back," he said.
Authorities were able to do this using civil forfeiture, which Slatic says he now calls the American justice system’s “dirty little secret.”
Tanya Sierra, a D.A. public affairs officer, said in a statement:
"The primary mission of the asset forfeiture program is to enhance public safety by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals to perpetuate their criminal activity. When it comes to spending the funds, we're obligated to follow nationwide policies, procedures and guidelines set up by the Department of Justice."
But as of now, Slatic is not a criminal.
“I haven't been arrested, I haven't been charged. And I didn't do anything wrong by the way,” he said.
Regarding the now 10-month long case, Sierra said: “The investigation related to this DEA task force raid is ongoing and the case remains under review for potential criminal charges.”
Slatic’s attorney Wesley Hottot with the non-profit law firm Institute for Justice said the D.A.’s office has up to a year after seizing their money to bring a case to court.
A judge has already denied a motion to unfreeze Slatic’s bank accounts.
But now Hottot has filed for a motion in court to get the family’s seized money back. They expect to be in court on November 14.