The first person to be arrested in connection with the largest-ever federal raids on Colorado’s medical marijuana industry pleaded guilty Monday to visa fraud and drug charges.
As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Hector Diaz pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute it and one count of visa fraud committed in facilitation of drug trafficking. Prosecutors offered Diaz no guarantees on sentencing as part of the deal, but he will most likely face a sentence of between a year to a year-and-a-half in prison, according to his plea agreement. He had previously faced charges that could have sent him to prison for 20 years.
Diaz also agreed to cooperate with the government in the prosecution of his one-time business partners. If he does that, he could be eligible for an even shorter sentence.
Diaz, who is from Colombia, was the first person arrested after federal agents in November 2013 swooped in on more than a dozen marijuana businesses, cultivation facilities and private homes all linked to the VIP Cannabis medical marijuana dispensary. A subsequent indictment accused Diaz — along with brothers Gerardo and Luis Uribe and attorney David Furtado — of conspiring to funnel money from Colombia to buy a large warehouse for growing marijuana.
However, in the plea agreement filed Monday in federal court, Diaz is portrayed as his business partners’ patsy. According to the plea agreement, the Uribes and Furtado misled Diaz about the legality of the marijuana business, started a business under his name without his knowledge and misrepresented their ownership of the warehouse.
Diaz, who owns a metals company in Colombia, told federal investigators that he believed he was going to be setting up a company in Colorado to build greenhouses for growing marijuana. It wasn’t until after he arrived in Colorado in November 2013 that he was told money he wired had actually been put toward purchasing the warehouse, according to the plea agreement.
Though federal sources said at the time of the raids that they were exploring possible connections for Colombian drug cartels, no cartel link is mentioned in Diaz’s plea agreement.
Diaz’s sentencing is scheduled for May.
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, email@example.com or twitter.com/johningold