A professional skateboarder from San Diego’s North County pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to possessing methamphetamine and heroin with the intent to distribute.
The office of Robert S. Brewer, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, confirmed Encinitas resident Robert Lorifice, 31, pleaded guilty to the drug charges out of San Diego County.
Lorifice’s former girlfriend, Elizabeth Landis, 27, of Encinitas, also pleaded guilty in federal court to the same charges.
In January, NBC 7 reported Lorifice was facing federal criminal drug charges following a raid at his home where authorities discovered heroin, methamphetamine and more than 800 Xanax pills.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that Lorifice and Landis each face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, plus a $5 million fine. They are set to be sentenced on Nov. 22 by U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego.
With his guilty plea, Lorifice admitted that – with the help of Landis – he coordinated drug deals via phone calls, text messages and apps. The pair admitted to selling meth, heroin and other drugs for money.
Brewer’s office shared one of those text messages: a Sept. 7, 2018, text sent by Landis. It read:
"I have bomb dark [heroin] you should try and I got [narcotics] and even some really bomb blue [methamphetamine] - the real deal. And bomb kush [marijuana] too. If u want to stop by here on ur way up let me know. I am gonna be heading down to sports arena a minute so if u aren’t leaving just yet I can swing by there."
According to a criminal complaint against Lorifice obtained by NBC 7 in January, the pro skater was arrested during a Sept. 26, 2018, raid by deputies with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department at his home in Encinitas. Landis was arrested that day, too, as well as a third person inside the home by the name of Tom Herbert.
In their Tuesday plea agreements, Lorifice and Landis confessed that when that search warrant was executed, Lorifice didn’t answer the door. Instead, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Lorifice flushed an unknown amount of blue meth and other drugs down a toilet and sink in the bathroom of his master bedroom.
Investigators found the couple upstairs, trying to flush the narcotics down the toilet.
Next to the toilet, officers found a "small blue chunk of a crystalline substance" and, near the sink, sat a plastic baggie with a "golf ball-sized chunk of a white crystalline substance," according to the complaint.
In addition, deputies found several hundred Xanax pills, an ounce of heroin, and an ounce of meth inside an open safe in one of Lorifice’s closets. Inside a safe in the other closet was a stack of money and a passport.
Scattered throughout the master bedroom of Lorifice’s home, deputies retrieved small plastic baggies, Roxicodone pills, Xanax, marijuana, mushrooms, packing materials, as well as a digital scale.
In all, deputies seized 231.6 grams of heroin, 193 grams of meth, 196 grams of marijuana, and $16,824 from the skateboarder's home.
Three other people were found in separate rooms inside Lorifice's home during that September 2018 raid. Two of the unidentified people, according to the federal complaint, admitted to buying meth from Lorifice and using drugs inside the house.
Herbert was arrested in a third bedroom. In that room, officers found heroin, Xanax and a bundle of cash with Herbert’s name on it.
In an interview following his arrest, Lorifice denied selling the drugs, stating that "the narcotics [were] left at his house by someone...and he was afraid to get rid of them," the federal complaint said.
Brewer’s office Tuesday also detailed another bust involving Lorifice and Landis.
On Dec. 14, 2018 – while the skateboarder was out on bail on a state case – investigators raided his Encinitas home for a second time and, again, Lorifice was caught trying to get rid of drugs.
As officials executed that second search warrant, Lorifice tried to flush a “tennis ball-sized chunk of methamphetamine” down the toilet of the bathroom in his master bedroom.
Again, Landis was found in the master bedroom with Lorifice. The couple was found with about 31 grams of black tar heroin, 18 grams of meth, a digital scale, pills and $10,926 in cash, Brewer’s office said.
Lorifice and Landis admitted the cash found at Lorifice’s home during both raids "were proceeds from drug trafficking and was also currency they intended to use to facilitate their drug- trafficking activities."
Lorifice rose to the top ranks of professional vert skating.
According to news reports, the Encinitas native was a local at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA skatepark since he was 6 years old, turning pro in his sport at the age of 16.
Lorifice grew up watching Ecke locals Tony Hawk and Andy MacDonald skate the vert ramp. He soon followed in their footsteps, and by the time Lorifice was 22, he had won four X Games medals for vert and on the MegaRamp.
"It’s unfortunate that a public figure who is admired by kids chose to travel down this road," Brewer said in a press release. "We have a very big methamphetamine problem in our county right now, plus a nationwide opioid epidemic is raging, and we are going after anyone who sells the poison that is destroying lives and families and communities."
In January, local skateboarder Connor Douglas told NBC 7 it was disappointing to see a fellow skater go down like this.
"It was pretty shocking news, because a lot of kids looked up to him," Douglas said. "Kind of a bummer to see him go down that road."
Lorifice's neighbors previously told NBC 7 the skater's professional decline coincides with a rapid increase in alleged drug deals that have taken place up and down their street in recent years.
"The successful conclusion of this case serves as a strong warning to drug dealers who operate on the streets of San Diego," said FBI Special Agent In Charge Scott Brunner in a press release Tuesday. "Day in and day out, the FBI and our law enforcement partners work together in order to keep deadly narcotics off the streets and hold drug dealers accountable. This is an example of the important work we do with our partners at the San Diego Sheriff’s Department."
Stefano L. Molea, who represents Lorifice, sent this statement to NBC 7 Wednesday on behalf of his client:
"Mr. Lorifice has made mistakes and has learned from them. He has worked on himself and has emerged a better and stronger person who is eager to live a productive and law abiding life while teaching others in the skateboarding community about the dangers of drug use."