Gerardo Uribe is described by business associates as honest and professional, a “gentle soul” who methodically built a medical marijuana empire in Colorado. While he struggled at times to get financing, the 33-year-old Uribe made a point of emphasizing following the rules, aware his Colombian heritage might invite suspicion, one business partner said.
In a recent court filing, federal prosecutors describe Uribe in different terms — as the head of an organization targeted in a long-term investigation into the alleged illegal production and distribution of marijuana, money laundering and other offenses.
On Nov. 21, federal agents executed search warrants on 14 businesses and two homes in the largest raid ever on Colorado’s medical marijuana industry, rousting a part-time manager as he got his children ready for school in Nederland and busting down doors in Denver.
Sources told The Denver Post that the raids were chasing possible connections to Colombian drug cartels, although investigators haven’t publicly accused any of the businesses of wrongdoing. The raids gutted grow warehouses, cost businesses millions in inventory, and forced owners to close stores and lay off employees, although many of the businesses have since reopened.
The government has identified a dozen people in the ongoing investigation. All but one is connected to a chain of five medical marijuana dispensaries and about a half-dozen marijuana grows controlled by Uribe, his relatives or associates, records show.
Among the Uribes’ raided businesses was VIP Cannabis in Denver, thought to be one of the highest volume dispensaries in the state.
The individuals involved include Uribe’s father, brother and a cousin; a Denver lawyer who represented the Uribe businesses and became an owner himself; and a Cuban national locked up in a Florida prison who used to work in one of the raided dispensaries and allegedly tried to order a hit on one of the owners, according to court records.
Uribe has not been charged, and his lawyer has said he has done nothing wrong. Only one individual has been arrested so far in connection with the raids — a Colombian national facing a gun charge.
The Post was not able to identify through business records any link between the VIP Cannabis-affiliated individuals and another raid target, Laszlo Bagi. The parties say they are not connected.
Federal authorities have declined to discuss the investigation.
“The investigation is ongoing,” said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado, “and it is active.”
But the weapons charge that grew out of the raids provides new details.
According to a U.S. District Court filing by federal prosecutors:
At 6 a.m. on Nov. 21, Arapahoe County SWAT team members armed with a search warrant entered a $1.3 million home in Englewood and immediately encountered a man with a gun.
Agents believed the people in the home would be armed based on earlier contact with members of the organization and statements Uribe made to law enforcement officers during a traffic contact.
The armed man — Uribe’s father, Gerardo Uribe Sr. — held a loaded firearm in one hand and a loaded pistol magazine in the other.
He ignored commands, was wrestled to the ground and cuffed. He requested medical treatment and was taken by ambulance to a hospital.