A Colombian national who was among four men indicted on federal money laundering charges in connection with raids on the Colorado medical-marijuana industry pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday morning.
During Hector Diaz’s brief court hearing, federal magistrate judge Boyd Boland advised him of the new charges. With Diaz’s consent, Boland entered standard not guilty pleas on Diaz’s behalf.
The hearing was Diaz’s first since the indictment was unsealed this week, but it did not reveal more details about a case that focuses on international money transfers and the attempted purchase of a large warehouse. Investigators say the accused planned to grow marijuana in the warehouse. Diaz also faces charges of illegal firearms possession and of making a false statement to immigration authorities.
The raids last November, by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, hit more than a dozen medical-marijuana stores and grow facilities. They were the largest-ever federal sweep against the industry in Colorado, but the allegations that spurred them remained secret until the indictment was unsealed this week.
Related: More DEA raids on Denver pot sites linked to VIP Cannabis
Prosecutors allege that Diaz, along with attorney David Furtado and brothers Gerardo and Luis Uribe, funneled money from Colombia into a bank account for a metals company in Colorado supposedly operated by Diaz. That money was then used to try to buy a warehouse in northeast Denver, where all four men planned to grow marijuana.
The Uribes operated several of the raided dispensaries including the largest of the group, VIP Cannabis in Denver. Prosecutors have not made clear whether they believe marijuana from the warehouse was to be grown according to state law and sold through the dispensaries or whether it was intended for the black market.
Related: Read the federal indictment released in the VIP Cannabis case.
Meanwhile, an attorney for Diaz, who was originally arrested on the firearms charge just after the raids, has previously said the metals company was a legitimate business that makes concertina wire.
After the roughly minute-long court hearing Wednesday, Diaz was allowed to remain free on bond. One of the conditions of his release is that he not attempt to obtain new travel documents and that he not visit any addresses connected with the raids.
Furtado and Luis Uribe, who were arrested last week and made their first court appearance Monday, are scheduled back in court Thursday. Gerardo Uribe, who has been considered a fugitive from justice, surrendered to federal authorities on Wednesday, said his attorney, Sean McAllister.
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, email@example.com or twitter.com/john_ingold