A six-count indictment returned last week by a federal grand jury charges the three owners and operators of G3 Holistic stores in Upland, Colton and Moreno Valley, according to a statement from the Department of Justice in Los Angeles.
The indictment also charges three people who allegedly worked at a large grow operation in an Ontario warehouse that supplied marijuana to the three G3 stores.
Three of the six defendants were released on bail during a 3 p.m.
According to the indictment, the six defendants are charged in a conspiracy to manufacture and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. The indictment also charges all the defendants with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The two charges each carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.
Aaron Sandusky, 41, of Rancho Cucamonga, president of G3; Keith Alan Sandusky, 44, of Rancho Cucamonga, in charge of day-to-day operations of G3; and Brandon Anton Gustafson, 30, of Yucaipa, who worked at the Ontario warehouse, will remain in custody until their hearings Friday.
John Leslie Nuckolls II, 31, of Rialto, and co-founder of G3; Paul Neumann Brownbridge, 29, of Upland, who worked in the Ontario warehouse; and Richard Irwin Kirchnavy, 45, of Rancho Cucamonga, who worked at the Ontario warehouse, were released on bail.
Bail for Nuckolls was set at $100,000 while bail for the other two defendants was set at $50,000.
The three who were released are prohibited from using marijuana despite being medical marijuana card holders.
Christopher Kenner, a member of G3 Holistic, attended the hearings on Thursday.
"This is a total waste of time and a waste of taxpayer money," he said.
Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, said the arrests took place between 6 and 9 a.m. Thursday at the residences of those involved.
Martha Partida, Keith Sandusky's girlfriend, said they were leaving to get breakfast around 7 a.m. Thursday when federal agents arrived in six unmarked vehicles.
"As soon as we pulled out of the driveway they surrounded the car," she said. "We were going to go get coffee."
Following Keith Sandusky's arrest, Partida drove to G3 in Upland where she saw federal agents leaving the co-op carrying bags.
Each defendant is also named in at least one count of maintaining drug-involved premises, a charge that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
The arrests and indictment, federal officials said, come after store owners were given written warnings about eight months ago that G3 Holistic was operating in violation of federal law.
While the Colton and Moreno Valley stores were shut down, the owners and operators continued to keep the Upland store open despite federal actions of:
Carrying out two separate search warrants at the Upland facility
Filing an asset forfeiture lawsuit against the property holding the G3 location
Filing a second asset forfeiture lawsuit against close to $11,500 in cash seized in November by federal agents during the search warrant execution at the Upland store and the residence of the lead defendant.
Roger Jon Diamond, attorney for G3, said he believed the indictment was in retaliation because the dispensary won an eviction case against its landlord on May 24 in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga.
"I think it's blatant discrimination," Diamond said, adding he feels the city of Upland has pushed the federal government into acting against the dispensary.
"You're not supposed to consider a city request ... what is the policy of the federal government? We can't figure out if the local feds are acting on their own or getting direction from somebody."
Diamond, who could not be in Riverside to represent G3, added he felt the federal Drug Enforcement Agency forced the dispensary's landlord, Magna & Magna, to file the lawsuit and "much to everyone's shock we won the eviction case."
Afterward, the federal government brought a pending forfeiture case against G3, Diamond said.
Paul Chabot, founder and president of Coalition for a Drug Free California, was pleased with the arrest news.
"I would say the Coalition for Drug Free California and the community of Upland have been waiting for this day a long time and we're glad to see federal enforcement against individuals who've been flaunting the law for quite some time," Chabot said.