Bob Lampert 11:30 a.m., Nov. 11
Operator of marijuana collectives sues lawyer who helped set them up
Counsel allegedly assured owner of two pot shops that federal agents would leave him alone
Ronnie Chang, a medical marijuana dispensary operator, has sued his former lawyer Jeff Lake in state court, claiming that Lake assured him that California state law would shield him from prosecution, only to have his shop raided by federal agents working in cooperation with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
Under the direction of Lake, who has represented numerous other area medical marijuana collectives, Chang set up two storefronts, one in San Marcos and another in the southern Riverside community of Wildomar.
Chang’s San Marcos dispensary, Club One Collective, opened in October 2010 after filing for (but not yet obtaining) a business license, was forced to close after Lake’s efforts failed to secure the license, with Chang being evicted in May 2011. Likewise, Extreme Holistic Care, the Wildomar operation, opened while license applications were still in process, “[b]ecause Defendant Lake told Plaintiff the ‘feds’ would leave him alone.”
Chang’s misguided belief that he was immune from prosecution was shattered on December 21, 2010, when a U.S. Border Patrol agent confiscated several jars of marijuana and a duffel bag with over $29,000 in cash. Lake’s office eventually negotiated a settlement with the government in the “United States of America v. $29,350 in U.S. Currency” case that resulted in the return of half the money, though it was allegedly kept by Lake, with none of the money going back to Chang.
As a result of federal raids and the traffic stop, Chang faces five charges of conspiracy and 71 others for money laundering. He has been in federal custody since June 2012, awaiting trial under a federal gag order.
Chang is represented in his suit against Lake by Michael McCabe, who also represents him in his criminal defense.