U.S. Attorney's Office
Central District of California
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December 18, 2014

Attorney Who Helped Owner of Marijuana Stores Launder Illegal Proceeds Pleads Guilty in Federal Money Laundering Case

SANTA ANA, CA—An attorney who engaged in a conspiracy that allowed the owner of a chain of marijuana stores to hide some of his income has pleaded guilty to federal financial offenses.

Guilty pleas by Richard C. Brizendine, 59, of Long Beach, were entered Monday by United States District Judge James V. Selna. Monday’s action concludes proceedings in which Brizendine pleaded guilty to two counts: money laundering and conspiracy to structure cash deposits to avoid federal reporting requirements.

Brizendine was an attorney for John Melvin Walker, who operated marijuana stores across Los Angeles and Orange counties and generated approximately $25 million in income over a six-year period. Brizendine conspired with Walker and others to accept cash from the marijuana operation and invest the funds into several corporations. According to court documents, Brizendine agreed to accept more than $10,000 in cash and then make smaller deposits into different bank accounts so as to not trigger federal requirements that financial institutions report currency transactions of more than $10,000 (this process is called structuring cash transactions). By pleading guilty, Brizendine specifically admitted that he structured approximately $389,700 for Walker.

The case against Brizendine was announced today after Judge Selna unsealed documents associated with the case.

Last year, Walker was sentenced to nearly 22 years in federal prison for operating a chain of marijuana and failing to reporter millions of dollars in revenues was on his taxes (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2013/096.html).

Judge Selna is scheduled to sentence Brizendine on May 4, 2015. At that time, Brizendine will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. Until that time, he will remain free on a $500,000 bond.

The investigation of Brizendine and the marijuana operation was conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; IRS-Criminal Investigation; the California Board of Equalization; the Orange County District Attorney’s Office; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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