Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pot shop owner linked to fatal Hwy 101 crash


A lengthy investigation sparked by a fatal traffic collision on Highway 101 that left a California Highway Patrol officer paralyzed has led to the arrest of the owner of six Los Angeles-area medical marijuana dispensaries.
Authorities took Virgil Edward Grant, 41, of Carson, and his wife, Psytra Monique Grant, 33, into custody on a long list of federal charges, including operating dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools and churches, according to a news release from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
DEA agents began their investigation more than five months ago, when a tragic collision on Highway 101 grabbed local headlines.

On December 19, 2007, CHP officer Anthony Pedeferri, an 11-year veteran of the department, made a routine traffic stop near La Conchita. As he spoke to the driver, Andreas Parra, 21, of Phoenix, a pickup truck drifted off the roadside and hit the vehicle, killing Parra and tossing Pedeferri approximately 20 feet.
Pedeferri, 36, suffered critical injuries and remains paralyzed, according to the DEA.
The driver of the pickup truck, Jeremy White, 20, of Paso Robles, is being prosecuted by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office for vehicular manslaughter after authorities found a large amount of marijuana and marijuana edibles in his vehicle, according to the news release.
White allegedly acknowledged being under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident, authorities said, and reportedly told investigators he purchased the drugs from a dispensary in Compton.
A subsequent investigation by the DEA and the criminal investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service led authorities to THC, a marijuana dispensary owned by Grant in Compton, according to the DEA.
Following a series of undercover purchases at several dispensaries operated by Grant, including one transaction involving a pound of marijuana, a grand jury handed down indictments for Grant, his wife and an employee, Stanley Jerome Cole, authorities said.
DEA officials allege Cole, 39, sold the pound of marijuana from the back door of one of the dispensaries for $5,700.
“The dispensaries involved in this case were simply drug-dealing enterprises designed to generate profits for those who chose to ignore federal law and flout state law,” U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien said in a prepared statement. “The tragic accident that killed Andreas Parra and crippled CHP Officer Pedeferri can be directly linked to this disregard of the laws.”
Authorities arrested the Grants on Tuesday morning following the grand jury decision on May 21 and are still looking for Cole. DEA officials said the consequences of marijuana use extend beyond those who sell and abuse the drug, citing the December collision on Highway 101 as an example.
“The individuals arrested today claimed to sell marijuana for medicinal use, but it is clear that they are nothing more than drug traffickers,” Timothy J. Landrum, a DEA agent in charge of the Los Angeles office, said in a prepared statement. “DEA is committed to enforcing federal laws that exist to prevent similar tragedies like this one from occurring in the future.”

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