We’ve obtained a 37-page federal court document related to Tuesday’s DEA search at GAME Collective in White Center (one of a dozen-plus medical-marijuana establishments searched around Puget Sound) – and they reveal that federal authorities obtained search warrants for GAME Collective locations in West Seattle and North Seattle as well, along with the West Seattle home and car of its owner, and vehicles belonging to others associated with GAME.
The documents reiterate what statements from federal authorities said last night (as included in our Tuesday story), saying that they are not targeting “medical marijuana providers that comply with the letter and the spirit of existing state law,” though marijuana of any type is illegal under federal law. But they allege that five people associated with GAME Collective are suspected of federal crimes including conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana , and unlawful possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The documents allege that constitutes a “drug-trafficking organization.”
The court documents also show a tie-in between the GAME investigation and the recent “Operation Center of Attention” raids, as well as detailing a series of undercover buys, and even mentioning a mysterious anonymous letter. The investigation of GAME Collective began in late July, at which time, an investigator writes:
Utilizing undercover officers and surveillance techniques, controlled purchases of marijuana were performed from individuals at the subject dispensary locations distributing controlled substances in the Western District of Washington. During these operations, the undercover officer was provided Officially Authorized Funds for the purchase of the marijuana. An electronic audio transmitter/recorder was placed with the undercover officer to monitor and record conversations between the undercover officer and suspects. The undercover officer would enter the establishment and provide an undercover identification as a qualified medical marijuana patient. After verifying the undercover officer’s eligibility as a medical-marijuana patient, the undercover was guided to an inner room and shown numerous varieties of dried marijuana, hashish, and other products such as candy and food items containing … THC — the psychoactive substance within marijuana. The undercover officer would purchase different varieties of dried marijuana and THC laden products which were then processed into evidence and sent to the DEA laboratory for testing and analysis for the presence of marijuana/THC.
The investigator goes on to mention (though not by name) Operation Center of Attention, the sweeping three-month investigation of White Center-area gang activity that recently resulted in raids and arrests. The documents say that ATF agents “had conducted controlled purchases of marijuana” from the White Center GAME Lounge during that investigation.
Also from the documents: GAME Collective’s business license is registered to its owner’s southwest West Seattle home, and “Greenpiece Alternative Medicine and Education (GAME) Center … is registered as a nonprofit organization.” And it is noted that the owner’s 2007 Mercedes was purchased with $34,000 in cash last April. (We are not identifying any of the suspects, as we do not thus far have any indication they have been indicted or otherwise charged.)
Among the background on GAME that is detailed in the documents is the armed robbery we covered at the West Seattle location last March.
(WSB photo from March 2011)
It lists items recovered during the aftermath, including “cannabis candies and … cookies” as well as marijuana and hashish.
A surveillance operation at the West Seattle GAME Collective location on July 28 is detailed. The investigator writes of seeing five vehicles arrive within 12 minutes, and seeing 13 people go in: “Approximately 10 to 20 minutes later, these individuals would exit The GAME Collective carrying paper bags on their way out that they did not have with them when they entered the establishment.” Most were described as in their 20s or 30s, and the investigator adds, “I did not observe anyone that required a wheelchair, crutches, or a walker to enter the GAME Collective. I know from personal experience, as well as observations of patients suffering from illnesses – such as certain kinds of cancer, AIDS, or Multiple Sclerosis – the physical toll such illnesses take on a person’s body as well as the side effects of their treatment. I know through experience and observations that hair loss, weight loss, lack of energy, difficulty in the ability to walk or to move limbs, or labored breathing are common and observable signs of such illnesses. During this surveillance, I did not observe anyone who entered or exited the GAME Collective exhibiting these signs.”
Next, the investigator writes of a similar surveillance operation at the North Seattle GAME Collective on August 9th.
And then, there are details about an anonymous letter received in mid-August alleging that GAME Collective was being used “as a collection point for Oregon and California grown marijuana and (shipped to a gang) in Chicago.” This letter claimed the enterprise was intending “to establish a large warehouse-sized indoor marijuana grow operation in Mount Vernon, Washington.”
The documents move on to late August, at which time the investigators’ “confidential informant” went into GAME Collective in White Center with $100 provided by agents, as well as audio/video recording equipment. Inside the documents say the informant was met by a man, asked for their medical-marijuana card and ID, shown “41 different varieties of marijuana” and “a lounge area where customers are encouraged to consume marijuana.” The informant allegedly was told “there is an afterhours party every Friday and Saturday … from 2 am to 6 am.” The informant paid $100 for 11 grams of marijuana and left.
The next day, the same informant was sent in for the same purpose. The documents note they “asked for a beer, but was told no beer was there.”
(Note: This has been a topic of community discussion at White Center meetings including the WC Community Safety Coalition – whether alcohol was being served at the GAME lounge.)
The day after that, the informant was sent in on a mission to “purchase marijuana and alcohol if possible,” the documents say. A purchase of marijuana and “five Swisher Sweet cigars” ensued, and then the informant “observed one of the customers of the GAME Collective was consuming a beer and asked for one” but was told “the beer was brought there by the customer and not provided by the GAME Collective.” The informant was told the after-hours party “costs $5 to enter and it’s BYOB – bring your own bottle.”
Also in late August, an ATF Field Officer working undercover went in, also wired, bought 10 grams of “marijuana identified as ‘Train Wreck'” for $120, and “observed at least 10 people at the bar … and most of them were consuming marijuana on the premises. Several of the patrons were observed … with small piles of marijuana on the bar in front of the customers and the marijuana was being shared between various patrons. (The agent) was offered marijuana on various occasions while he walked through the establishments observing the activities within the GAME Collective.”
When he went back the next day, the documents say, he was not asked for identification or his medical-marijuana card.
The narrative moves on to mid-September, when the undercover officer and informant went in to try to barter pipes and smoking devices for marijuana. The document says they were successful – that a GAME staffer “agreed to pay $100 for the pipes,” after being told by the agent “that he intended to sell the marijuana after receiving it for the pipes.” The $100 was received, and given back “for 10 grams of marijuana. (The staffer) offered (the agent) a lit marijuana cigarette … to sample. (The agent) simulated smoking the marijuana and then returned the marijuana cigarette …”
Then in late September, the documents say, another undercover agent was sent into the West Seattle GAME Collective with $2,000 for “a controlled purchase of three ounces of dried marijuana, ten grams of hashish, and two lollipops allegedly containing THC.” That same agent went to the North Seattle branch the same week with $750 and bought marijuana, hashish, and “two vials allegedly containing hash oil.”
Next date in the documents is November 3rd. The investigator who wrote the report says he walked by the White Center GAME Collective lounge and “noticed the odor of burning marijuana …”
From there, boilerplate follows, with generic language regarding why a search warrant would be sought, looking for evidence and possibly records of alleged illegal activity. What the searches yielded, would be the subject of future documents; there are no indications anyone was arrested in connection with this part of the DEA operation.