Former Michigan House Speaker Rick Johnson, aged 70, has begun serving a 55-month sentence at a federal prison in Minnesota, following his conviction in a bribery scandal that tainted Michigan's marijuana industry. Johnson, once a prominent Republican lawmaker and later a key figure in regulating the state's marijuana sector, was confirmed as an inmate at the FPC Duluth, a minimum-security facility located near Lake Superior, as per the latest inmate database.
Before his fall from grace, Johnson was a powerful figure in Lansing. His journey from a lawmaker to a lobbyist and eventually the chief regulator of Michigan's burgeoning marijuana industry came to an ignominious end after he was found to have received over $110,000 in bribes. His tenure as chairman of the medical marijuana licensing board from May 2017 to April 2019 was marred by these illegal transactions, involving marijuana lobbyists and a businessman. Notably, these bribes included encounters with a sex worker, who referred to him as "Batman."
Johnson's incarceration follows an unsuccessful bid to reduce his prison time and a request to serve part of his sentence under house arrest, citing health concerns from recent heart bypass surgery. He had been granted a postponement to begin his sentence in late October, but U.S. District Judge Jane Beckering refused a further delay. Johnson's attorney, Nicholas Dondzila, had argued for an extension until February 1st, 2023, citing ongoing medical needs and potential treatments that would pose a financial burden on the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
This case marks the most significant public corruption scandal in Michigan's capital in three decades. Johnson was accused of manipulating the state marijuana industry, an action Judge Beckering described as an "unfettered abuse of power." In April, Johnson admitted to accepting bribes to influence his decisions on the licensing board.
Three other individuals, including two lobbyists and a businessman, also pleaded guilty in the bribery scheme but have yet to begin their prison sentences. Lobbyist Brian Pierce is serving a two-year sentence in Pennsylvania, while lobbyist Vince Brown is serving 20 months in a separate federal facility in the same state. Oakland County businessman John Dawood Dalaly is serving a 28-month sentence in West Virginia.
A recent incident at STIIIZY - Ferndale, a cannabis dispensary located at 642 E. Nine Mile Rd in Ferndale, led to an arrest following a burglary attempt. The Ferndale Police Department reported that they were alerted to the situation when the store's alarm was triggered at approximately 4:40 a.m. on December 1st.
Upon arriving at the scene, officers discovered a vehicle that had been backed into the front door of the business. As the police approached, the individuals involved in the incident fled. Despite the initial escape, an arrest was subsequently made in connection with the burglary.
The case has been forwarded to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office for a review of potential charges. The Ferndale Police Department continues to investigate the incident to uncover further details and ascertain the full scope of the event.
A sophisticated group of six individuals equipped with advanced surveillance tools and burglary equipment attempted an ill-fated robbery at an illegal marijuana farm, resulting in a violent confrontation, according to recent federal court records.
This dramatic incident, unfolding in the heart of America's largest marijuana market, took place on July 16th at a secluded property in Coleman, Michigan, a small city located 19 miles northwest of Midland. The botched robbery attempt left behind a scene reminiscent of a crime thriller: a bullet-riddled barn, an exchange of gunfire, and the perpetrators donned in camouflage, carrying high-tech gear such as two-way radios, handheld surveillance cameras, cell phone jammers, and pry bars.
The individuals charged in this case are Addiel Torres, 49; Yoany Alvarez-Antuna, 40; Yuan Biart-Gonzalez, 39; Andy Gomez-Niebla, 38; Robert Padron Alvarez, 45; and Jorge Garcia-Santiago. Their respective hometowns and Garcia-Santiago's age were not disclosed at the time of reporting.
In the absence of defense lawyers listed in the federal court records, each of these men faces the possibility of up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted on charges of attempted interference with commerce by robbery. They also face additional charges in state court connected to this attempted heist.
Members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) task force spearheaded the investigation into this case. On the day of the incident, ATF investigators responded to a reported shooting at a rural residence and adjacent pole barn located in the 3000 block of W. Shaffer Road in Coleman. According to ATF Task Force Officer Mitchell Eddy's affidavit, Addiel Torres was shot by the property owner during the attempted robbery and was later found recuperating in a local hospital.
The homeowner, alerted by a security camera, confronted Torres outside. In the ensuing scuffle, where Torres reportedly wielded a firearm and tackled the homeowner, the homeowner inadvertently shot Torres in self-defense.
A subsequent search of the property unveiled an illegal marijuana cultivation operation. Investigators found approximately 40 marijuana plants outside the barn, which bore signs of gunfire. Inside, they discovered an expansive grow operation with 227 marijuana plants, 137 pounds of processed marijuana flower, and 10 pounds of other marijuana plant material. According to the ATF, none of the individuals at the farm possessed valid credentials to cultivate marijuana.
A Michigan State Police K-9 unit later located Alvarez-Antuna and Biart-Gonzalez, clad in camouflage and gloves, half a mile from the farm, alongside a two-way radio. Gomez-Niebla and Padron Alvarez were found three miles west of the farm, following a tip about backpacks discovered less than three miles from where they were apprehended. These backpacks contained an array of burglary tools including pry bars, a ski mask, a cell phone jammer, various hand tools, work gloves, a snake camera, water bottles, and an inhaler, providing further evidence of the premeditated nature of their operation.
In a concerning development in Washington Township, Luis Mendoza, a 29-year-old church youth leader, has been arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. Mendoza, associated with Stoney Creek Community Church, is accused of giving marijuana to a minor and engaging in grooming behavior prior to the alleged contact.
The Macomb County Sheriff's Office, led by Commander Jason Abro, promptly initiated an investigation following a report from the victim's parents. "The juvenile came forward to her parents and in turn, her parents contacted the Macomb County Sheriff's Office and as we learned of this, we began our investigation immediately that day," Abro stated.
The investigation, spanning several weeks, culminated in Mendoza's arrest on Tuesday night. Abro shed light on the suspected predatory behavior, noting, "It seemed from the information that we obtained that this person began to groom the young victim." The Sheriff's Office is actively seeking information from the public and encourages anyone who may have had inappropriate contact with Mendoza, or knows of similar incidents, to come forward.
Following his arrest, Mendoza was arraigned on Wednesday. He faces charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
This case underscores the importance of vigilance in community settings, particularly involving youth. The legal process now in motion aims to address these serious allegations and provide justice for the involved parties.
Update on Rick Johnson's Sentencing Case: In a recent development, the request for a postponement of former Michigan House Speaker Rick Johnson's prison sentence has been denied by the court. Johnson, aged 70, had sought a delay in serving his 55-month sentence due to health concerns following heart bypass surgery. Despite arguments presented by his legal team regarding his need for ongoing medical therapy and potential risks in prison, the judge has ruled against any extension of his freedom or allowance for house arrest. This decision comes as Johnson prepares to report to a minimum-security federal camp in Duluth, Minnesota, for his role in a major public corruption case involving Michigan's marijuana industry. The following article provides detailed insights into the case and the circumstances surrounding Johnson's sentencing.
Former Michigan House Speaker Rick Johnson, aged 70, recently petitioned for a postponement of his prison sentence, citing health concerns following a heart bypass surgery. Johnson, who was sentenced to 55 months in federal prison for accepting over $110,000 in bribes during his time overseeing Michigan's marijuana industry, is scheduled to report to a minimum-security federal camp in Duluth, Minnesota, in two weeks. The bribes included encounters with a sex worker, earning Johnson the moniker "Batman."
Johnson's legal representative, Nicholas Dondzila, requested either an extension of his freedom until February or a two-month house arrest before he begins his sentence. This request is grounded in Johnson's need for ongoing medical therapy, consultations, and potential treatments, which could be financially burdensome for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Dondzila emphasized the severity of Johnson's condition and the risks involved if he fails to receive the required treatment.
This scandal, involving Johnson and three others, including two lobbyists and a businessman, is the largest public corruption case in Michigan's capital in three decades. Johnson pleaded guilty in April to accepting bribes intended to influence his decisions as chairman of the state's medical marijuana licensing board. The other three have also pleaded guilty but have yet to start their prison sentences.
Post-surgery, Johnson has been under the care of skilled in-home nurses, dealing with a low heart rate and high blood pressure. His medical team has recommended 12 weeks of cardiac rehabilitation therapy, which they advise should be completed before he reports to prison. The defense raised concerns about whether the BOP facility can provide the necessary level of care given Johnson's serious heart condition and other health issues.
The defense's final plea was for the court to ensure that Johnson receives all necessary therapy and treatment during his imprisonment.
In October, Michigan's state cannabis authority took action against several businesses involved in the recreational and medical marijuana industry, as detailed in the latest enforcement report by the Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA).
The report for October, released by the CRA, documents 28 instances of regulatory issues involving various companies. This includes several formal complaints which were later withdrawn by the regulatory body.
The documented violations cover a spectrum of regulatory breaches, from lapses in security measures to inadequacies in financial documentation.
A notable case involves Aim High Meds, a retailer based in Coldwater. The business faced a $7,000 penalty for not maintaining the mandatory 30-day video surveillance archive.
In another instance, Exclusive, a Kalamazoo retailer, was fined $3,000 for the sale of expired marijuana gummies.
Additionally, RC Labs, located in Kalamazoo, was cited for failing to submit their financial statement for the year 2021.
Several businesses were flagged for multiple regulatory breaches. One such entity cited in the October report faced disciplinary action for several issues, including noncompliant sales, failure to adhere to Metrc seed-to-sale tracking requirements, and neglecting annual financial reporting obligations. Another was reprimanded for similar sales and surveillance noncompliance, along with Metrc tracking issues.
This action follows earlier concerns raised by Michigan's Office of the Auditor General regarding the CRA's delay in imposing disciplinary actions on cannabis businesses that fail to comply with regulations.