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Tag: marijuana

Marijuana Advocates Worried Trump Administration Will Crack Down on Legal Pot

Photo by Steve Neavling.

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Marijuana advocates are bracing for what could be a harsh crackdown on pot in states where it’s legal for recreational and medicinal use.

The biggest concern is Trump’s choice for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who 10 months ago in a Senate hearing room said “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Eight states have legalized recreational use of marijuana.

Under Obama’s administration, the federal policy was to let states set their own laws.

“There are people in this administration who will crush this industry if they see the opportunity,” Steve DeAngelo, a guru among pot entrepreneurs, told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t think people who don’t have firsthand experience with the irrationality of federal intervention understand what a threat we are facing.”  

Hunting for The Joker

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

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In the Spring of 1989, a drama fraught with irony began playing out in Austria. A Jewish American family, a mother and her two grown sons, were fighting extradition to the US. About 50 years before, Jewish families were desperately trying to leave Austria for safe havens like the U.S.

The subjects of the extradition were Linda Leary and sons, Paul and Richard Heilbrunn. They fled to Austria from Indiana in anticipation of an indictment that was returned by a Federal Grand Jury in November, 1987. The indictment ran 136 pages and contained 53 counts variously charging 34 people. Paul and Richard were specifically charged with running a massive marijuana smuggling and distribution operation, legally termed a “Continuing Criminal Enterprise” (CCE). According to the indictment the ring operated from 1975 to 1985. It distributed more than 150,000 lbs. and took in more than $50 million in cash. The figures were subsequently revised upward to 250,000 lbs. and $50 to $100 million. It would prove to be the biggest marijuana ring ever prosecuted by the US.

Paul Heilbrunn was characterized as the ring leader of the enterprise. Testimony later depicted him as both respected and feared. He was referred to as “Melech,” Hebrew for king. Although Paul was a high school dropout, he was by all accounts a brilliant businessman. Prior to the indictment, he was believed to be a successful commodities trader in Indianapolis and wrote a column on trading for the local newspaper. He was a bon vivant who favored three-piece suits, frequented the finest restaurants and drove a top of the line BMW. He on several occasions rented jets and flew his friends to such events as the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball finals.

His older brother, Richard, on the other hand was described as a big Teddy bear. He lived on a farm and usually wore flannel shirts and jeans. Richard supervised operations while Paul was the CEO.

Their mother, Linda Leary, was twice married and divorced. She had kept the name of her second husband. Leary was prominent in the Indianapolis community. She was the head of the Indiana League of Women Voters and president of the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Leary was also involved in her sons’ business ventures. An early venture was dubbed Heilbrunn and Friends, ostensibly it was a health food distribution business -a good front for marijuana distribution. The “friends” were high school buddies who had setup marijuana sales networks at colleges they attended. But soon the network was supplying customers outside the campuses in eleven Midwestern states. Most of the marijuana came by ship from Columbia, Jamaica and Thailand – an exotic global operation. It was then trucked to Indiana where it was stored in barns that were owned or rented by the Heilbrunn organization.

Paul Heilbrunn had structured the organization so that information stovepiped, that is, information moved up and down, but only flowed between members as was necessary. This limited what any member could divulge should they choose to cooperate with law enforcement.

Paul also had attorneys set up offshore corporations in the Bahamas and Panama to launder the proceeds from the marijuana operation. Linda Leary was designated as the head of several of these corporations. Much of the laundered money was transferred back into the US and used to fund loans often for Indiana businesses.

In the present the paradigm has changed – now with so many states legalizing marijuana, it’s almost like looking back on prohibition. The Heilbrunns and their cohorts weren’t protesting the illegality of marijuana. Rather like the bootleggers, they were taking advantage of a restricted market. They could set the price, had little competition and the profits were tax free.

The Beginning of the End of The Empire

The beginning of the end for the Heilbrunn empire occurred when in 1983 a cocaine dealer was arrested. The dealer had previously worked for the Heilbrunns, but had been let go for drug use. He offered to tell what he knew about the Heilbrunn operation as part of plea bargain. There is no honor among thieves and little to none among drug dealers.

After the arrest of the cocaine dealer, law enforcement meticulously put together a case against the Heilbrunn organization which culminated in the 1987 federal indictment. Most of the 34 people charged were known to the federal grand jury that returned the indictment with the notable exception of one indictee who was referred to as “John Doe, also known as the Joker” like Batman’s nemesis. There were also two female subordinates to the Joker – named as Jane Does, aka, “Tipper and Topper.” (This probably was a disappointment to comic book purists who were anticipating a female code name like Catwoman.)

While the Heilbrunns were fighting extradition, most of the indictees were prosecuted and convicted. Some cooperated and agreed to testify against others including the Heilbrunns. In one of the co-conspirator’s trial, there was testimony about the Joker. He was depicted as “Paul Heilbrunn’s trusted and valued peer,” whose Michigan based operation did business with Heilbrunn and his associates. But no one in the Heilbrunn organization other than Paul himself seemed to know Joker’s true identity.

One person in the Joker’s organization had been identified and prosecuted for having stored a 40,000 lb. load purchased by the Joker from Heilbrunn. That person was James Shedd who owned a barn in Ypsilanti Twp. just southeast of Ann Arbor where the load was stored. (Shedd had also previously been the manager of the Sidetrack Bar, a locally famous and historical place in Ypsilanti.) Shedd had refused a plea deal and would not identify the Joker. That stand may have been based more on compensation from the Joker than honor.

It became a personal challenge for me to identify the Joker. It was a matter of pride. The Joker was a huge marijuana dealer who had been operating in my territory with impunity.

There was an individual who had become disenchanted with the Joker’s enterprise and reportedly had a falling out. I decided to see what if anything I could learn from him that might identify the Joker.

Over the next several months, we periodically met for coffee. We talked about a lot of things: sports, politics and although nothing specific was discussed, drugs. Slowly I gained his trust. I explained to him I would never disclose his identity, and any information he provided would be reported in such a way as to not divulge his identity. At no time did he ask me about any payment for information nor did I offer him any compensation. We both understood if he were to provide information, it would be because it was the right thing to do.

We began to discuss some specific things regarding marijuana distribution in Michigan. In early 1989, I asked him if he could help me identify the Joker. His reply was, yes, he could help – he could tell me who the Joker was – he was James Hill.

I immediately began to investigate James Hill. I found that James F. Hill owned a house in an affluent part of Ann Arbor. He also owned a business in Ann Arbor, an ice cream shop on Main Street, “The Lovin’ Spoonful.” And he owned and lived on an 80-acre farm just west of Ann Arbor. Hill had a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. Hill had no criminal record except he had been arrested for a traffic violation in 1973. It was nothing serious, but there was an arrest photo.

I sent a copy of the photo to Indianapolis, and after seeing the photo several of cooperating witnesses identified James Hill as the person they knew as the Joker.

The FBI Ann Arbor Office

Indianapolis obtained an arrest warrant for Hill, aka, the Joker. Early the next morning we set up an arrest team at Hill’s farm. When he was observed leaving the farm, we arrested him and took him to the Ann Arbor FBI office. I explained to Hill that he had been identified as the Joker in a federal indictment from Indiana charging him with multiple drug trafficking violations, and he would be taken to Detroit to be arraigned. He would likely remain in custody until he was transported to Indianapolis. He didn’t really question anything and seemed to have expected to be arrested. He indicated he would be cooperative, but he didn’t want to be interviewed until he got to Indianapolis.

When the media learned of Hill/the Joker’s arrest at the arraignment, they wanted to know how he had been identified. Rather than say nothing and encourage speculation, I made a statement that one of the cooperating witnesses in Indiana had identified him which was partially true.

Hill was removed to Indiana and did cooperate. Tipper and Topper were identified as sisters, Jennifer and Patricia Hanlon of Ann Arbor. They later pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to six years.

In late 1989, the Heilbrunns lost their two-year fight against extradition and were returned to the US.

In  October 1990, Hill pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the Heilbrunns. In his plea agreement, Hill admitted to having received several 1,200 to 2,000 lb. shipments of marijuana starting in 1976. Then between March and November 1985, Hill received marijuana shipments of 18,000 lbs., 20,000 lbs., 40,000 lbs. and a pair of 2,000 lb. loads from the Heilbrunn organization. Hill said he made his last payment to Heilbrunn in 1986. By then he had paid the Heilbrunn organization about $20 million for more than 100,000 lbs. marijuana.

James Hill was sentenced to 20 years. Because he had pleaded to having run a Continuing Criminal Enterprise all of his assets were subject to forfeiture. The US District Court Judge said that Hill would have received harsher punishment if not for his cooperation.

In January 1991, Linda Leary also pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against her sons. She was subsequently sentenced to nine years.

There was no trial of the Heilbrunns. Paul and Richard pleaded guilty in April, and in July 1991, they were sentenced. Richard got 13 years. Paul, the King, who had also pleaded to CCE, received 28 years. Thus, ended the Heilbrunn empire.

To my knowledge no one ever learned the identity of the source who identified the Joker.

 

 

Virginian-Pilot: DEA Has Bad Relationship with Facts, Science on Drug Risks

Photo by Steve Neavling.

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Editorial Board
Virginian-Pilot

Leaders of America’s Drug Enforcement Administration have long demonstrated a shockingly casual relationship with facts and science on drug risks.

The idea that marijuana — completely legal in several states and available for medical use in most — should be listed on the same Schedule 1 with heroin, bath salts and Ecstasy is the kind of laughable conclusion only a zealot could justify.

The DEA is supposed to be a dispassionate law enforcement agency, doing its best to keep America safe. But when it wastes time, energy and money on the indefensible, it undermines the agency’s very legitimacy.

Take cannabidiol, commonly called CBD.

Earlier this month, the DEA classified CBD, along with other marijuana derivatives, as Schedule 1 drugs, which means they have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Except that’s simply not true. CBD — which doesn’t impart the high of THC — has well-established medical uses.

According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, “CBD acts in some experimental models as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, anti-oxidant, anti-emetic, anxiolytic and antipsychotic agent, and is therefore a potential medicine for the treatment of neuroinflammation, epilepsy, oxidative injury, vomiting and nausea, anxiety and schizophrenia, respectively.”

Former DEA Agent Sentenced to Year in Prison for Witness Tampering

dea-badgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former DEA agent who demanded cash in connection with a drug trafficker was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison.

Samuel Murad, 62, was hired to help secure the early release of a marijuana trafficker whom the agent helped send to prison in the 1990s, the Tampa Bay Times reports. 

“I have no excuse for my behavior,” Murad said in court. “I’ve hurt my family. I’ve hurt my friends.”

“You’ve also hurt the DEA,” U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew interjected. “You made law enforcement look bad.”

Other Stories of Interest

DEA Blames Media for Spreading Misinformation about Marijuana

Photo by Steve Neavling.

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA is taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook – blame the media.

The DEA complained in its annual survey that “media attention” to marijuana is making it difficult to enforce federal laws that make pot illegal, the Washington Post reports. 

It also appears to be the media’s fault for spreading inaccurate information about the dangers of marijuana and the drug’s legality.

The report reads:

Many states have passed laws allowing the cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana within their respective states. Due to these varying state laws, as well as an abundance of media attention surrounding claims of possible medical benefits, the general public has been introduced to contradictory and often inaccurate information regarding the legality and benefits of marijuana use. This has made enforcement and prosecution for marijuana-related offenses more difficult, especially in states that have approved marijuana legalization.

Parker: Heavy Marijuana Users Have Thinner Bones and More Fracture

medical marijuana

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Adding to the developing body of medical knowledge about the dangers of marijuana use, the University of Edinburgh announced this past week that frequent use results in reduced bone mineral density and a higher incidence of fractures. The study also concluded that these heavy users have a reduced body mass index (BMI) which further contributed to a thinning of the bones and could result in a greater risk of osteoporosis.

This part of the study raises questions about the popular theory that smoking increases appetite, colloquially known as having the “munchies.” For frequent smokers the use actually had the opposite effect of suppressing appetite, thus resulting in a lower BMI and weaker bones. Frequent smokers were defined as those who had smoked marijuana at least 5,000 times in their lifetimes.

The study also found that moderate use, about 1,000 total occasions of smoking, showed no difference in bone mineral density from that of non-users.

The study was sponsored by Arthritis Research UK and is published in the American Journal of Medicine. 

Wanted: Researchers to Grow Marijuana to Study Medicinal Benefits

Photo by Steve Neavling.

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA is looking for researchers to grow marijuana in an effort to better understand whether cannabis has medicinal benefits.

Since the 1970s, the DEA gave exclusive license to the University of Mississippi to grow and research marijuana.

The decision comes after the DEA declined to approve marijuana for medical use, saying there was insufficient evidence to remove cannabis from the Schedule I category.

Stat News contacted nearly a dozen agricultural schools to see if they were interested in growing marijuana. All said they had no plans to do so.

Stat News reported:

To register with the agency, applicants will need to show that they will have security measures in place to protect the marijuana and be willing to comply with a host of other requirements. And depending on the scale of the operation, prospective growers will likely have to make significant investments to get it up and running.

Other Stories of Interest

Portland Press Herald: Ban on Medical Marijuana Hurts Legitimate Patients

marijuana-istockBy Editorial Board
Portland Press Herald

A recent decision upholding the federal ban on medical cannabis was a letdown in Maine and the 24 other states where the drug can be prescribed to ease the symptoms of illness.

But the Aug. 11 announcement also offered reason for a more optimistic prognosis: The Drug Enforcement Administration is removing a major roadblock to medical studies of marijuana and advancing long-stalled efforts to research the plant’s value as a medication.

For 46 years, marijuana (along with heroin and LSD) has been a Schedule I drug, with no known medical benefits and “a high potential for abuse.” So when the DEA announced in April that it would soon decide whether to reclassify cannabis, there was widespread hope that the government was rethinking its long-held stance on the drug.

The production, distribution and consumption of marijuana all remain illegal under federal law – a fact that keeps medical cannabis patients and state-licensed suppliers in limbo.

Maine families have had to establish residency in Colorado in order to obtain the cannabis extract that helps their children’s epilepsy. Why? Because that particular strain, Charlotte’s Web, is grown in Colorado. And if parents can’t find something that works at home, they don’t have the option of crossing state lines to get it somewhere else.

Under federal law, that’s drug trafficking, even if they’re transporting strains like Charlotte’s Web that are low in THC, the chemical compound that’s the source of the high.

To read more click here.