A pair of alleged North County cannabis operators could face more than $200,000 in asset forfeiture in addition to criminal penalties if convicted of the illegal cultivation and possession for sale of marijuana, prosecutors said.
A preliminary hearing for defendants Eli Christopher Sheiman and Mariete Wingard, the so-called Herbal Angels, is scheduled to resume Oct. 12. If a judge finds prosecutors present enough evidence, they will be held over for trial. And if convicted of the charges against them, they will face possible jail time and fines.
But they also would face civil asset forfeiture proceedings in which prosecutors will seek to deprive them of more than $202,000 in cash allegedly connected to a December 2019 raid by Sheriff’s cannabis compliance officers on their alleged illegal pot-growing operation west of Buellton. Officers purportedly seized and destroyed 3,000 pounds of dried and frozen cannabis products.
“The civil asset forfeiture case is currently stayed pending the criminal case,” Deputy District Attorney Morgan S. Lucas told the News-Press.
In their petition for asset forfeiture, prosecutors said they want to permanently take $180,873 in cash seized by agents of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff Department on Dec. 16, 2019 near 202 Santa Cruz Ave. in Santa Barbara.
Prosecutors also want to take $21,393.06 from Union Bank and $4,152.66 from Wells Fargo Bank that also was seized by sheriff’s officers.
The cash, considered the defendants’ property, is currently located at, or under the control of, the Sheriff’s Department.
Prosecutors allege that the money came from the illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana.
They will ask a civil judge for a judgment and order declaring the money permanently forfeited. The defendants have contested the forfeiture, so the state health and safety code “requires a conviction of the underlying criminal charges for the assets … to be forfeited,” DDA Lucas said. “Those assets are alleged to be proceeds of, or funds used to facilitate illegal drug sales.”
The defendants are charged criminally with the illegal cultivation and possession for sale of marijuana. Mr. Sheiman also is charged with perjury for giving an affidavit in which prosecutors said he lied by claiming they were only growing marijuana for medical use.