In a stunning development, the Santa Barbara Criminal Grand Jury on Tuesday announced dozens of criminal indictments against the owners and employees of Hortipharm Marijuana Dispensary and Pizza Guru.
By Joshua Molina | Published in The Daily Sound
Josh and Dayli Braun, owners of Hortipharm, together face 23 counts of money laundering.
Josh Braun faces 13 counts of money laundering, sales of marijuana; possession for sale of marijuana; cultivation of marijuana; and theft of utility services (electricity).
Dayli Braun faces 11 counts of money laundering and possession for sale of marijuana.
HortiPharm, 3516 State St., was raided by the Sheriff’s Department on June 11.
In addition to being suspected of illegal operation of the dispensary, the Brauns, are alleged to have laundered illegal dispensary profits through an upper State Street eatery they own called Pizza Guru, located nearby at 3534 State Street.
Josh Lynn, the Brauns’ attorney called the indictments outrageous.
“To say that this is an absolute miscarriage of justice is an understatement,” Lynn told The Daily Sound.
Lynn questioned the motivations of the District Attorney’s office in going to a secret grand jury instead of a preliminary hearing.
Lynn and his clients were not allowed the opportunity to make their case to the grand jury. He said the DA took the matter to the grand jury because the Brauns refused to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit.
“I am incredibly disappointed that the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office has elected to prioritize what has been deemed legal for years based on Proposition 215 and the Attorney General guidelines, rather than keep my children safe and everyone else’s by using the limited resources available in law enforcement and go after the very gang members who plague our community and are on the front pages of the newspaper regularly,” ~ Josh Lynn
Lynn said his clients have consistently followed the law and changed their business practices in order to stay in compliance with Prop. 215, and regulations that were changing.
The defense attorney also wonders how what was originally a three count charge has ballooned to so many indictments.
“It is disappointing as a taxpayer and horrifying as a former prosecutor,” Lynn said.
Authorities last June served search warrants at three addresses in Goleta – including a storage facility, a home on Almond Avenue in Santa Barbara that was allegedly being used as an indoor grow-house, and at 5423 Santa Rita Rd. in Lompoc.
During the raids, which were executed by the Santa Barbara Police Department and the sheriff’s department, detectives allegedly seized a large amount of marijuana, hashish and other marijuana products and paraphernalia, they said. Police also seized “sophisticated equipment used to grow large quantities of marijuana,” according to a news release issued by the sheriff’s department at the time.
Other employees charged include, Carl Quinn on one count of money laundering, and possession for sale of marijuana; Gustavo Lizarrag, on 19 counts of money laundering and possession for sale of marijuana; George Wardlaw, Sales of Marijuana and possession for sale of marijuana; Ben Wilmore, possession for sale of marijuana and cultivation of marijuana; and Michael Shane, cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana, theft of utility services and possession of psilocybin mushrooms.
In a news release put out by the Santa Barbara Police Department, Lt. Paul McCaffrey said police uncovered additional evidence of illegal activity committed by the owners and employees of Hortipharm Marijuana Dispensary.
The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office presented the evidence before the Grand Jury, who today made public the criminal indictments.
The suspects named in the indictment will be ordered to appear before Santa Barbara Superior Court on a date to be determined.