ALTURAS, Calif. (CN) – The “purported” chairman of a five-member tribe in Northern California turned a tribal hall into an enormous illegal marijuana-processing operation, federal prosecutors say.
The DEA and Bureau of Indian Affairs uprooted 12,000 marijuana plants from Pit River tribal land in Modoc County after the sister of the “purported” tribal chairman complained her brother had converted a tribal hall into a marijuana processing plant.
Federal agents raided two Pit River reservations on July 8: the Alturas Indian Rancheria and the Pit River XL Ranch.
Both sites were growing far more marijuana than allowed by law, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Prosecutors believe a Canadian national with a long criminal record financed the operation for sales off tribal land.
The operation was capable of growing 40,000 to 60,000 plants in 40 newly built greenhouses, prosecutors said. Agents also seized 100 lbs. of processed weed.
The tribe’s Event Center, which also was raided, is about 100 yards from the tribe’s Desert Rose Casino. The casino was closed indefinitely last year in a dispute about revenue and operations.
The Alturas Rancheria is about 20 acres, with five members, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Some tribal members dispute that. Other publicly available information estimates Alturas tribal membership at 15.
In a July 7 affidavit in support of a search warrant, a Bureau of Indian Affairs drug enforcement agent says the Alturas’ enormous marijuana farm “is controversial and opposed by other members and purported members of the tribe.”
The agent said the purported chairman’s sister complained she was “wrongfully being excluded access to the Alturas Rancheria Event Center by persons using the event center to manufacture marijuana.”
Federally recognized tribes can regulate marijuana cultivation and sales on tribal land, but the Department of Justice can prosecute to keep marijuana from criminal organizations, children, and states where it is illegal. Prosecution priorities are laid out in the Department of Justice’s Oct. 28, 2014, “Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country.”
According to the search warrant affidavit, the Modoc County sheriff met in March this year with “purported Alturas Indian Rancheria Tribal Chairman Phillip Del Rosa, purported Alturas Indian Rancheria Vice Chairman Darren Rose, and Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan, LLC, law firm partners John Peebles and Patrick Bergin.”
Peebles told the sheriff that the tribe was establishing a medical marijuana collective, with a growing facility, but no sales would be made there. “Peebles stated the tribe would be working with other marijuana collectives in other parts of California,” according to the affidavit.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento sent Peebles a letter in May telling him that the tribe’s plan “to manufacture, transport, and distribute marijuana on the scale contemplated by the two tribes ‘is a violation of federal law’ and ‘subject to possible federal enforcement action, including criminal prosecution.'”
The affidavit states that in June, Wendy Del Rosa sent the U.S. Attorney’s Office a letter complaining that “(1) the actions by Phillip Del Rosa and Rose to establish a marijuana manufacturing facility on tribal lands were not authorized, but, in fact, a private endeavor by Phillip Del Rosa and Rose, designed by attorney Peebles, and financed internationally through Jerry Montour of Canada. Wendy Del Rosa affirmed that the marijuana manufacturing operation on tribal lands was opposed by the tribe and illegal under state and federal law; and (2) the tribe desired that the federal government ‘take all appropriate law enforcement action to close this illegal drug operation and bring those responsible to justice.’ The letter enclosed two purported tribal resolutions: (1) declaring the ‘Medical Marijuana Program Ordinance’ adopted by Phillip Del Rosa and Rose purported on behalf of the tribe as ‘null and void;’ and (2) revoking any authority of Phillip Del Rosa and Rose to act on behalf of the tribe.”
Montour is a cigarette entrepreneur from Canada who sells “hundreds of millions of dollars” of tobacco products a year and is being sued in the United States and Canada on tax charges, according to the affidavit. He has a long criminal record, the affidavit states, including possession of an unregistered and restricted weapon (1978), breaking and entering and theft (1983), possession of a narcotic (1985), conspiracy to import a narcotic (1988), and cultivation of a narcotic (1991).
The 28-page affidavit contains photos of the marijuana farm, which is surrounded by chain-link fencing and barbed wire.
Commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana violates federal law, California’s Compassionate Use Act, and local regulations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. However, no federal charges are pending.
According to the affidavit: “marijuana plants at the event center were all bar coded and tracked in a computer system; there was a safe at the event center that contained medical marijuana recommendations; and some of the marijuana in the event center was ultimately going to be shipped to a undisclosed location approximately 750 miles away from the event center.”
Marijuana also was taken without authorization from the Alturas site to the Pit River Ranch, according to the affidavit. The tribes are related, but separate. The Pit River Ranch is 9,255 acres with about 40 members.
Both reservations are homes to what Anglos call Pit River Tribes, whose native language is known as Achumawi. Its linguistic affiliations are uncertain due to scanty data.
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