Obama Administration Drops Asset Forfeiture Case Against Anaheim Landlord

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Jay Brockman
The U.S. Attorney's office has formally dropped its case against the Anaheim landlord who stood to lose his $1.5 million retirement property over a $37 pot sale in a dispensary he'd already evicted, a case first exposed by the Weekly in February of this year. The feds had been seeking to drop the case for months, but had insisted that the landlord, Tony Jalali, a software engineer, agree to surprise inspections and to never rent to another marijuana dispensary.

Jalali, who is represented by both Matthew Pappas and the Washington D.C.-based lnstitute for Justice, had refused to agree to those terms. In the deal reached today, the feds have dropped all conditions except one: that Jalali not demand that the U.S. government pay his attorneys fees. Even more importantly, the feds have dropped the case with prejudice, meaning that they cannot threaten to seize his property again.

Today, the feds also dropped similar cases against three other landlords, Dr. Mark Burcaw, who owns two properties in Santa Ana, including one that currently houses a dispensary, as well as Tom Woo and finally, Walter and Diane Botsch, who stood to lose a property that had been renting to a dispensary in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles. Although both the government and the landlords have signed the deal, attorney Pappas told the Weekly that the court needs to officially sign off on the agreement, which is expected to occur momentarily.

"There will be no refiling of these actions," Pappas said, adding that he believes the deal was reached thanks to the Obama administration's recent ratcheting down on the war on marijuana, both medical and recreational, which suddenly highlighted the incongruous attacks on citizen and patient rights being carried out by the U.S. attorney's office in Southern California, as the Weekly has been reporting.

"It's pretty amazing for them to come up and dismiss the cases, pretty unusual," Pappas remarked. "I think it's a major victory for patients, [and] for citizens in general."

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