A group of criminals posing as law enforcement officers robbed two licensed Oklahoma cannabis cultivation operations at gunpoint this week, while the quick thinking of a third targeted cultivator foiled an attempted robbery.
On Sunday, a cannabis cultivator in Hughes County reported being robbed by a group of six armed men wearing badges and patches with insignia from law enforcement agencies including the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The men, who claimed to be with the nonexistent Oklahoma Marijuana Board, presented a phony search warrant and demanded payment for a code violation. Once the men had gained entry to the property, they stole marijuana and cell phones from the cannabis cultivation operation.
A similar robbery occurred on Monday at a cannabis farm in adjacent Seminole County. District Attorney Paul Smith, whose district encompasses both Hughes and Seminole counties, is heading an ongoing investigation into the robberies in conjunction with the state narcotics bureau and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Law enforcement officials noted that they have received additional reports of thieves masquerading as police officers in the past.
“So it’s not the first time we’ve seen that happen,” Mark Woodward, spokesman of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, told the Oklahoman. “In the past they’ve showed up at either a grow or a dispensary and claimed to be with the state of Oklahoma, saying there were violations and demanded money on site to pay the fine for the violation or be shut down.”
Officials noted that the state’s actual cannabis regulator, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, and other state agencies do not demand fines at gunpoint. Several law enforcement agencies confirmed that they were not involved in the raids in Hughes and Seminole Counties.
“We were not conducting any type of operation down there,” Woodward said.
One Attempted Oklahoma Cannabis Robbery Thwarted by Alert Grower
On Monday, a gang of armed men dressed as law enforcement officers tried to steal from a third cannabis grower, also located in Seminole County. The imposters approached the unidentified cultivator, bearing a fake search warrant that contained multiple spelling errors.
The grower quickly called her attorney Donald Gies, who represents hundreds of clients involved in the booming Oklahoma cannabis industry. After not getting through immediately, the grower sent an urgent text message reading, “I’m being raided, please help.”
Knowing that the cultivation operation was properly licensed but unsure of what was going on, Gies called his client and advised her over the phone in real time.
“I instructed her to ask what agency they were affiliated with… they stated they were with the Oklahoma Marijuana Board,” Gies said, as quoted by The Kansas City Star. “So that kind of threw some red flags up.”
As the grower continued her interaction with the group of men, she left her phone on speaker, allowing her attorney to monitor the situation. When the crew realized that the grower was not going to give in easily, they said they had the wrong location and left empty-handed.
“She was scared because they were in normal clothes and they had Halloween masks and things like that, and what she’s doing is describing that out loud to me,” Gies said. “She was awesome, thinking on her feet.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority director Adria Berry told reporters that her agency is aware of the rash of robberies by thieves posing as law enforcement officers.
“We’ve received those reports as well, and have been working with OBN on a strategy to make sure that we’re keeping our licensees in the loop so that they are on alert that this is happening,” Berry said.
So far, the investigation into the robberies has led to one arrest, according to Woodward. The district attorney’s office was expected to issue arrest affidavits and search warrants soon, according to media reports.