HELENA — Recently unsealed warrants shed some more light on the scope of this week's medical marijuana raids in Montana, naming seven medical pot businesses as targets of the investigation.
The 26 search warrants and four civil seizure warrants executed as part of an 18-month investigation into large-scale trafficking and tax evasion were unsealed on Tuesday.
The warrants say federal agents assisted by local authorities were searching for evidence related to a conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana.
The warrants do not detail the alleged crimes that are being investigated, and the U.S. attorney's office has declined to provide more information than to broadly say the investigation is looking at possible conspiracy, tax evasion and drug-trafficking charges.
Montana Cannabis co-owner Chris Williams, whose business is one of the largest medical marijuana distributors targeted in the raid and provides pot for about 300 people, has denied any wrongdoing and said he intends to reopen by the end of the week.
The warrants signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch of Missoula authorize the search and seizure of marijuana, property and money in offices, homes and warehouses of the pot businesses, as well in bank accounts in the names of those businesses or individuals.
Those named in the warrants include Montana Cannabis, with locations in Helena, Missoula, Billings and Miles City; Big Sky Patient Care of Dillon, Bozeman and Big Sky; Four Seasons Gardening of Columbia Falls; Northern Lights Medical of Columbia Falls; Good Medicine Providers of Columbia Falls; Montana Cannabis Ministry of Belgrade; Natural Medicine of Great Falls; and Queen City Caregivers of Helena.
It was not immediately clear if additional providers not named in the warrants are also part of the investigation.
The civil seizure warrants authorized agents to take more than $4.2 million from bank accounts in Kalispell, Helena and Belgrade. In Belgrade, a warrant authorized seizure of nearly $1.7 million in a First Security Bank account in the name of the Montana Cannabis Ministry and $103,413 in another account belonging to MCM owners Randy and Stephanie Leibenguth.
In Helena, authorities were authorized to seize more than $1.3 million from Valley Bank accounts held by Montana Cannabis and the Montana Caregivers Association, plus a Mountain West Bank account with $463,749 in the name of Joshua Schultz of Natural Medicine.
In Kalispell, authorities were authorized to seize $653,550 in a Glacier Bank account belonging to Four Seasons Gardening.
More than 4,800 medical marijuana providers and more than 28,000 patients are registered in Montana.
Federal agents filed affidavits along with the warrants, but those were still under seal on Wednesday. The Billings Gazette newspaper obtained a copy of an affidavit that said undercover agents had been investigating one of Williams' partners at Montana Cannabis, Richard Flor, since 2007, with agents buying pot from Flor at least twice.
The affidavit also outlined interviews with ex-employees of Montana Cannabis that said the provider bought pounds of pot from Big Sky Patient Care for weeks last year when Montana Cannabis' main greenhouse near Helena was vandalized, according to the newspaper.
Flor told the Miles City Star newspaper that agents confiscated plants, vehicles and firearms from his Miles City home, which doubles as a Montana Cannabis location.
"They just pushed stuff on the floor. It was senseless, you know . like a cyclone hit the place," he told the newspaper.