(WSB photo: June 3rd raid at 28th/Yancy)
Six months after police raided an indoor marijuana farm in North Delridge, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged its owner with three felonies. This was originally reported in a Seattle Times (WSB partner) story that a WSB reader pointed out to us; we have since obtained the court documents.
After the June 3rd raid at the building alongside Longfellow Creek at 28th/SW Yancy, we spoke by phone with owner Matthew Segal, who told us in that interview that he had been growing 2,500 plants, of which police allowed him to keep 45. At the time, he owned two medical-marijuana dispensaries under the Rain City name, and told us he had been growing at the North Delridge site for three years (records showed he had bought it for a million dollars last March). Police said they also raided two houses, one in the Morgan Junction area.
The charges filed Wednesday against Segal and four others, all described as having no criminal history, allege violations of the state’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act – three charges against Segal, one each against four people alleged to have been working for him, “paid to maintain the marijuana grows, receiving salaries and a share of profit from the sales.”
The documents say allege Segal was illegally growing marijuana “to supply” his two dispensaries, in violation of state laws limiting a “collective garden” to 45 plants. Also, the charges allege, “Over 90 pounds of processed marijuana was found, totaling a street value of over four million dollars.” Segal’s accounting records, prosecutors allege, “show deposits over a two-year period of over $700,000 … The defendant’s conduct in running a for-profit, illegal marijuana business strays far from the legislative intent of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries.”
The investigation background accompanying the charging documents say a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force tipped SPD to Segal’s operations, mentioning three houses – two in West Seattle – as well as the SW Yancy site, for which a state marijuana-producing license was being sought at the time, with an application filed in May. He also was reported to have been seeking a processing license for a location in South Park.
On June 2nd, police got a search warrant for the SW Yancy site and a house in the 6500 block of 44th SW, as well as a house outside West Seattle; they reported detecting the smell of marijuana from outside all three locations, but not from the other West Seattle house mentioned to them. They carried out the warrants the next day. At the Yancy site, they found 32-year-old Jeffrey Borgueta, one of those who is also now charged; he is reported to have told them he worked seven days a week growing marijuana at that location, which cleared a million dollars in 2013, and that overall the Rain City dispensaries had 5,000 prescriptions and almost that many plants.
After their search, police wrote, they had found 2,275 plants and 90 pounds of processed marijuana worth an estimated $3.7 million. Segal arrived with a lawyer while police were there; they wrote that he “appeared to know that his marijuana grow operations were illegal.” Segal and Borgueta were allowed to pick out which 45 plants they wanted to keep but were not arrested, and the documents say both left before police were done “gathering evidence.”
At the 44th SW location, police reported finding 272 marijuana plants worth an estimated $400,000 and two sisters who “operated” the location as employees of Segal, 38-year-old Stephanie Cameron and 24-year-old Katarina Anderson, both also now charged with a felony drug violation.
Police took a computer from the Yancy site and got a search warrant in July to go through it. It included records of the operation, they say, and showed that people using it had frequently visited a website that provided business software for the marijuana industry. The records included information on a bank account they allege was used “to deposit suspected proceeds from the illegal sales of (this) marijuana” and possibly other transactions such as the $1 million purchase of the Yancy warehouse.
Besides the Yancy and 44th locations, the police narrative mentions other alleged West Seattle connections to the operation: The fifth person named in the charges, 32-year-old Kevin Nortness, who allegedly worked at the non-West Seattle location raided by police, is described as a West Seattle resident. The documents also mention a West Seattle home raided by police in November, saying they found 147 plants and $300,000 in processed marijuana there, and that they had multiple reasons to believe the growing operation there (but not the house itself) was owned by Segal. (We don’t know if any charges have been filed in connection with that raid; the county court system is down for its routine overnight maintenance.)
Segal and his four co-defendants are due in court to answer the charges on December 24th. The Seattle Times story quotes a lawyer for Segal as saying he has sold one of his dispensaries and is hoping to transition into the recreational-marijuana industry.