Pot Shop Owner Cries Malpractice After Raids
SAN DIEGO (CN) - The owner of medical marijuana dispensaries says in court that the feds raided his shops though his attorney promised that California law would shield him from prosecution.
Ronnie Chang sued his former attorney Jeff Lake in state court for negligence, legal malpractice and unfair business practices, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and conversion.
Chang says in his complaint that he was confident Lake was on the level when the lawyer told him he could legally open two pot shops - Club One Collective in San Marco and Extreme Holistic Care in Wildomar - without fear of federal interference or prosecution.
But Chang says Lake was only interested in securing the thousands of dollars in fees Chang paid, and knew that state law did not give his client immunity from federal prosecution.
That point became clear in late 2010 when a U.S. border patrol agent pulled over his car and found a jar of high grade marijuana and a duffel bag stuffed with $29,350 in cash, according to Chang.
An attorney working for Lake recovered half of the money through a negotiated settlement with the government. However, neither Chang nor Club One Collective ever saw a penny of the settlement because Lake kept the money, according to Chang.
Months later, the DEA raided both dispensaries. Chang says in his complaint that while he avoided a state indictment, he now faces federal drug charges and 71 counts of money laundering.
He also notes that he has been in custody for more than a year while awaiting trial.
Chang "relied on defendant's negligent and inappropriate legal advice and suffered damages as a result," his complaint states.
He is represented by Michael McCabe of San Diego.