The assets of businesses that are connected with VIP Cannabis will be sold. VIP is part of the largest federal raids on Colorado's medical marijuana industry. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)

Feds ask judge to dismiss case against Denver pot lawyer

A federal prosecutor has asked a judge to dismiss all drug and money laundering charges against Denver attorney David Furtado, a key figure in what once were heralded as the biggest criminal pot raids in Colorado’s legal-marijuana era.

But Furtado, who saw investigators seize $450,000 in cash from the trunk of his car in 2013, will not get that money back, a spokesman for acting U.S. Attorney Robert C. Troyer said Monday.

Troyer requested all five felony money laundering charges against Furtado be dismissed without prejudice in a motion Friday, according to a court document.

The dismissal brought to a quiet end a case that was announced three years ago in a high-profile news conference in which Furtado was named as an operator in the VIP Cannabis dispensary, helping to oversee an international drug-trafficking and money-laundering operation that included close to 30 people and spanned multiple licensed marijuana businesses and unlicensed residential grows.

But only Furtado and three others were ever charged with federal crimes connected to VIP Cannabis. Although the other three were all convicted, their charges were greatly reduced in plea agreements. The defendants who all originally faced decades in federal prison entered probationary deals, according to court records.

Furtado’s Denver attorney, Joseph Saint-Veltri, declined to comment on Monday. But in a second motion to dismiss he filed in December, Saint-Veltri accused the U.S. Attorney’s office of selective prosecution.

Prosecutors had previously alleged that Furtado helped orchestrate a scheme to funnel money from Colombia through several bank accounts in Denver and into the purchase of a warehouse for growing marijuana.

Furtado had argued that the federal crimes he was charged with — money laundering and trying to deposit proceeds from an illegal enterprise into a bank — all stemmed from activity that is legal under Colorado law. Because Congress last year passed a law prohibiting the U.S. Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, Furtado argued that the indictment against him should be dismissed.

Furtado’s three co-defendants are the only ones who will end up with criminal convictions out of the 30 people involved in the business.

One of his co-defendants, Luis Uribe, faces sentencing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver on reduced misdemeanor charges, according to court records. Uribe’s brother, Gerardo Uribe, entered a plea in which drug manufacturing and distribution charges were reduced to marijuana possession charges. His plea calls for a probationary sentence with 90 days in prison as a condition of probation.

U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn sentenced the last co-conspirator, Hector Diaz, on July 9 to “time served,” meaning that he would not serve any more time in prison than he already spent in pre-sentence detention. Blackburn also sentenced Diaz to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine. Diaz had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana.

The dismissal of charges against Furtado does not change the status of his co-defendants, said Jeff Dorschner, Troyer’s spokesman.

“The dismissal in our opinion will not have any impact on the other related cases,” Dorschner said. “Each case has separate, independent facts on the charges and the outcomes. Those cases were resolved appropriately.”

Less clear is what will happen to the money and property seized by federal agents from Furtado and the three others.

Even though charges were dismissed against Furtado, he will not get back $450,000 investigators found in the trunk of his car and confiscated through federal asset forfeiture laws, Dorschner said.

“He did not contest the forfeiture of that cash,” he said.

Furtado did contest the seizure of the VIP Cannabis warehouse, he said. A judge will now decide whether Furtado can reclaim the warehouse, Dorschner said. Hearings about the fate of the warehouse have been on hold pending the outcome of court proceedings, he said.

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