CALIFORNIA: Today the United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the forfeit of $1,675,000 from an owner of two commercial office buildings in Bakersfield to resolve claims that the buildings were used to house marijuana retail stores and large-scale indoor marijuana cultivation operations.
Nedeljko “Ned” Strizak, the owner of properties on 4100 Easton Drive and 4700 Easton Drive in Bakersfield, leased several commercial office suites to the operators of a marijuana retail store, as well as operated his own marijuana retail store at the Easton Drive properties. Strizak also leased many commercial office suites for large-scale indoor marijuana cultivation, as well as conducted his own large-scale indoor marijuana cultivation at the Easton Drive properties. A complaint for forfeiture of the properties was filed on October 6, 2011, and a settlement was reached allowing a payment of $1,675,000 in lieu of the properties.
The two marijuana retail stores, American Green Farmers and Botanica Collective, sold, distributed, and provided marijuana for sale and profit. During the search of the Easton Drive properties, law enforcement agents found and seized approximately 1,452 live marijuana plants, 6,721 grams of processed marijuana, 396 grams of hash oil, and 114 pieces of marijuana cultivation equipment that included 61 grow lights and 53 power ballasts.
Strizak allegedly started his marijuana retail store with the expectation that it would be lucrative, as he had observed the neighboring marijuana retail store, American Green Farmers, become profitable. Strizak allegedly invested $120,000 into Botanica Collective, with the goal that the business would net him approximately $100,000 per month in profit. Law enforcement agents located a document at the Botanica Collective premises that listed daily customer sales goals needed to reach the $100,000 per month net profit goal. Despite claiming that it held a valid City of Bakersfield business license, Botanica Collective was licensed only for the manufacture of “coffee and tea.” Upon inspection of the premises, law enforcement agents found no evidence related to a coffee or tea business.