A Kearny Mesa, California dispensary owner is seeking the return of assets seized during a February raid after neither he nor his employees were formally charged with any crime, according to a report from the San Diego Tribune.
Following the crackdown, James Slatic’s bank accounts, along with those of his wife and two teenage daughters, were frozen and his dispensary, Mid-West Distribution, was shuttered, leading to all 35 of his employees losing their jobs, health benefits and retirement accounts. Slatic is not fighting to have the dispensary cash and property returned, rather just the $100,000 seized from the family’s accounts.
“It’s the dirty little secret of the American justice system,” Slatic said in the report. “They can come in and take all your money and property just on the say-so of a police officer. Once they do that, you have to go to court and prove why your money is not guilty.”
Steve Walker, spokesman for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, said the Office opposes the release of any funds or property seized by law enforcement because the case remains under investigation and that confiscations aid in crime prevention.
“The primary mission of the asset forfeiture program is to enhance public safety by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied on by criminals to perpetuate their criminal activity,” he said.
Slatic argues that he has paid all of his federal and state taxes for the businesses, which was licensed by the city of San Diego, and has the paperwork to prove it.
“I’m a 57-year-old entrepreneur and businessman,” Slatic said. “You always think the laws are designed to protect middle-class gray-haired guys supplying jobs, then one day you wake up with 28 helmeted SWAT guys with automatic weapons breaking down your front door with a sledge hammer.”
San Diego Police Detective Mark Carlson, said that the dispensary was using chemicals to extract oils from cannabis, in violation of state law, and argues that the family was attempting to hide the proceeds from the extraction business.
“Based upon my review of Wells Fargo documents and documents provided by Schools First and North Island Credit Union, Slatic has transferred significant funds from his concentrated cannabis extraction business to his wife Annette Slatic, who in turn has deposited some of these funds, at least $210,200 into her Wells Fargo accounts,” he said in the report.
In a court filing, Slatic’s lawyers argue that “writing a check to one’s wife is hardly suspicious” and the government has so far failed to show any evidence that there was any wrongdoing.
Last month Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation barring law enforcement from seizing any asserts worth up to $40,000 without a criminal conviction; however that law will do little to help Slatic because his seized property exceeds that amount. According to a report by the District Attorney’s Office to the federal government, the office has more than $2.4 million in seized funds on hand.
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