US Law – LawFuel, The Law News Network – OAKLAND – United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan announced that Kenneth Affolter and four other individuals pleaded guilty today for their role in a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana plants and marijuana products that mimicked well known candy and soft-drink brands. This guilty plea is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
In pleading guilty, Mr. Affolter, 39, of Lafayette, admitted that he had controlled and managed several marijuana cultivation facilities in Emeryville and Oakland. He further admitted that those facilities had been devoted not only to cultivating and distributing marijuana plants, but also to creating edible products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana. These edible products, which Mr. Affolter sold under the brand name “Beyond Bomb,” were designed and packaged to resemble parodies of actual candy and food products; examples included “Munchy Way” candy bars (designed to resemble Milky Way candy bars made by Mars Incorporated), “Pot Tarts” (designed to resemble Pop Tarts made by Kellogg), and “Trippy” peanut butter (designed to resemble Skippy peanut butter made by Unilever Best Foods). Mr. Affolter admitted that the eleven other co-defendants in the case were employees he had hired to work at his production and cultivation facilities, and that he had been responsible for the production and distribution of more than 1,000 marijuana plants.
“While real candy may give you cavities, these individuals know that marijuana candy can get you jail time,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Pena.
Four of Mr. Affolter’s former employees and co-defendants also entered guilty pleas today. Amy Teresa Arata of Oakland and Jesse Monko of Walnut Creek both admitted to performing supervisory roles in Mr. Affolter’s marijuana facilities. They pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy counts and agreed to serve 18-month prison terms. Jaime Alvarez-Lopez and Elizabeth Ramirez, both citizens of Mexico, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana offenses and agreed to serve 12-month prison terms.
Mr. Affolter was first indicted by a federal grand jury on March 30, 2006, and was charged with manufacturing and distributing, and conspiring to manufacture and distribute, marijuana plants, in violation to Title 18 United States Code Sections 841 and 846. On June 8, 2006, the grand jury added an additional charge of witness tampering, in violation of Title 18 United States Code Section 1512. Under the terms of the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Mr. Affolter pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to manufacture and distribute marijuana, and agreed to serve a 70-month sentence for his crime.
In March 2006, DEA agents raided Mr. Affolter’s production facilities and his residence. The raids, which were conducted pursuant to federally authorized search warrants, resulted in the discovery of a large-scale marijuana operation involving thousands of marijuana plants, as well as thousands of marijuana-related soda, candy, and food products. Large sums of United States currency and several firearms were also recovered from Mr. Affolter’s residence.
Mr. Affolter and Mr. Alvarez-Lopez are scheduled to be sentenced before Senior Judge D. Lowell Jensen in Oakland on December 15, 2006. Ms. Arata, Mr. Monko, and Ms. Ramirez are scheduled to be sentenced before the same judge on January 5, 2007.
Dana R. Wagner is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Mae Chu and Cynthia Daniel. The prosecution is the result of an extended DEA investigation led by Special Agent William T. Armstrong.