Legalization is turning the tables on those who traditionally prey on cannabis operators—cops and criminals alike.
A judge in California Feb. 10 sentenced a former employee of a legal cannabis warehouse to 14 years in federal prison for his part in arranging possibly the largest botched marijuana heist of California’s Prop. 64 era to date.
Christopher Myung Kim, 30, of Walnut, CA became the first of six convicts sentenced for orchestrating an armed robbery worth over $2 million, with the help of a corrupt Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy, according to the US Attorney’s office.
Court documents note that Kim had worked at a downtown Los Angeles cannabis warehouse for years before a dispute with its owners left him “bitterly disgruntled.”
Kim left his job before conspiring with Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Deputy Marc Antrim, 42, of South El Monte, to orchestrate a massive revenge-driven raid.
Kim told Antrim the warehouse’s layout, operations, and security, such as security guard stations and locations for the most valuable items, authorities said.
“Although not physically present during the robbery … Kim was integral to its planning, success, and profitability,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. “He was a leader, organizer, and knowingly made this robbery possible.”
Robbers posed as cops
Voters legalized adult-use cannabis in California in 2016. Legal sales began Jan. 1, 2018. Legal California cannabis is now a $2.03 billion dollar industry with low access to banking. Licensees often must hold large amounts of cash and product. Lack of banking invites robbery attempts, which have occurred statewide.
At approximately 3 a.m. on October 29, 2018, Antrim and six co-conspirators entered the licensed marijuana distribution warehouse posing as a law enforcement team, wearing police-style duty belts and holstered handguns. After flashing his badge and a fake search warrant to gain access to the warehouse, Antrim locked the warehouse’s security guards in his Sheriff’s Department SUV.
During the course of the two-hour robbery, Antrim and the impostor law enforcement team escaped with more than 1,200 pounds of marijuana, over $600,000 in cash and money orders, and other items of value, all of which totaled over $2 million. At one point, Antrim talked his way out of getting busted by a local beat cop who saw something fishy.
However, Prop. 64-era regulations mandate licensees use extensive video surveillance. Cameras captured the license plate number of the rental truck used to move the stolen goods. Just days after the heist, an attorney for the warehouse met with the Sheriff’s department to provide footage of the robbery, KTLA News reports.
Detectives followed the rental truck’s GPS records to one accomplice. There they found his share of the stolen weed, $150,000 to $200,000 in cash, and a weapon, ammo, and flashlight linked to Antrim. The entire heist team was soon after arrested, and Antrim cooperated with the investigation.
Harsh sentences mandated by law
Kim’s February sentence comes after a 2019 trial where a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. A judge also ordered him to pay a $500,000 fine.
Five other defendants have also pleaded guilty for their involvement in the robbery, and are scheduled to be sentenced in March and April.
Antrim’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 13. The disgraced former deputy faces a 12-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, under the same draconian statutes that law enforcement have wielded for decades against defendants caught with drugs and guns.
“If we want consumers and those entering the industry to have faith in the marketplace and in joining the legalized economy, we must throw the book at those engaging in corrupt practices and fraud,” NORML executive director Erik Altieri said to LA Weekly. “Wearing a badge should not shield them from legal prosecution when caught.”