Guilty plea in Berkeley pot operation
Man, 31, agrees to forfeit 7,000 acres By Angela Hill, STAFF WRITER 02/05/2008
OAKLAND — Joshua L. Hedlund, 31, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Oakland to using a Berkeley warehouse for a massive illegal marijuana grow and laundering the proceeds from that operation, the U.S. Attorney's office announced.
As part of the plea agreement, Hedlund agreed to forfeit more than $1 million in proceeds from the Berkeley grow and money he received from others for the purchase of properties in Humboldt, Marin, Mendocino and Trinity counties, authorities said.
Hedlund also agreed to forfeit his right to more than 7,000 acres in Humboldt and Trinity counties that he purchased from the Eel River Saw Mill in the name of Vilica LLC.
The guilty plea is the result of a two-year investigation by the Berkeley Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigation division.
Hedlund was arrested March 15, 2006, during a raid at a warehouse at 807 and 809 Allston Way in Berkeley, which netted 5,800 marijuana plants, a dozen weapons and $220,000 in cash. Investigators said it was the largest haul of marijuana Berkeley police had made in several years, and led to searches of homes in Oakland, Castro Valley, Antioch and Brentwood.
Berkeley police began investigating the Allston Way grow in early 2006. Surveillance of that location led to the arrest of six other individuals, all of whom have pleaded guilty to charges related to the cultivation of marijuana at the warehouse.
The IRS was called in to investigate the money laundering aspect of the case, said Special Agent Arlette Lee, of the IRS' criminal investigations section.
"Many people don't realize the IRS gets involved whenever there is a situation like this with money laundering," she said. "The Berkeley police and the DEA went after the illegal drugs. But we tracked the money, the proceeds from the sale, where it was coming from and where it was going."
In court Monday, Hedlund admitted he knowingly allowed others to grow marijuana at the warehouse between late spring of 2003 through March 2006. He also admitted to using the proceeds of the marijuana grown to pay his mortgage on the warehouse, authorities said.
In addition to forfeiting the Vilica LLC parcels, Hedlund agreed that law enforcement officials may at any time, without warrants, search more than 5,000 acres Hedlund controls throughout Humboldt and Mendocino counties in the name of Schmook Ranch LLC.
Hedlund is scheduled to be sentenced May 16 in Oakland, and could receive up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to
$500,000 for using a warehouse to grow marijuana, plus an equal sentence for money laundering, authorities said.
No mention of Paradise Palms LLC. Nor what was going on on that Eel River SawMill acreage. No mention of Vilica LLC partner and president Steve Schectman...