Bay Area Union Organizer in Big Trouble

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A Bay Area union organizer was criminally charged Thursday with taking bribes, money laundering and attempted extortion in dealings involving medical marijuana dispensaries.
     Daniel Rush, 54, of Oakland, also is charged with honest services fraud during his work as an organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers from 2010 to 2015.
     The federal grand jury indictment claims Rush abused his position as an “organizing coordinator of the medical cannabis division of the UFCW” in several ways.
     He is accused of accepting $550,000 in debt forgiveness from “an individual affiliated with medical marijuana dispensaries,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. The person who forgave the debt was an FBI informant.
     He also is accused of taking kickbacks from an attorney to whom he referred medical marijuana dispensaries as clients, while one of his jobs for the union was to organize the dispensaries’ workers.
     He is accused of taking kickbacks from the same attorney for referring workers comp clients while Rush was an officer of an advocacy group for the working poor.
     The attempted extortion count charges him with demanding “a well-compensated job” from a prospective medical marijuana dispensary while he was a member of Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission, which regulates and licenses dispensaries in the city.
     The money laundering count charges him with taking a $600,000 from someone involved in the medical marijuana business and structuring deposits to hide the origin of the money.
     The investigation started after people in the medical marijuana business complained about Rush to the FBI.
     He is free on $500,000 bond. He will be arraigned on Sept. 23.
     If convicted of all charges he could be sentenced to more than 60 years in prison, restitution, and fined $500,000.

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