Getting Stoned Takes On New Meaning Plus Bonus Grandparent Alert

November 21, 2018 Blog readers may be unaware of our companion Securities Industry Commentator, which is a daily legal, regulatory, and compliance feed curated by veteran Wall Street lawyer Bill Singer.  Today, a lot of folks will be going to the bathroom at noon but never returning to their desks in order to get an early jump on the Thanksgiving holiday. In recognition of that early exodus from Wall Street, the Blog offers two extracts from Securities Industry Commentator (which, if you're wondering, also has lots of very serious stuff but we thought it would be better to tease new readers with some fun bits).
Okay, sure, I'll admit it -- this headline sucked me in. 
Apparently, Curran Millican Manzer pled guilty in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon to one count of possession with intent to the distribute marijuana. As much as I'd like to present you with a punchy version of events, I'm going to sit back and let the DOJ Release speak for itself via this extract: 

According to court documents, in September 2017, the Springfield Police Department began an investigation after being contacted by United Parcel Service (UPS) regarding several packages Manzer shipped to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma that had a strong marijuana odor. UPS later confirmed that, in October 2017, Manzer sent several additional packages next day air to Oklahoma City also believed to contain marijuana. During the same time period, several packages containing numerous stacks of cash bound in $1,000 increments were sent to Manzer's home address in Springfield.

In November 2017, Springfield Police obtained a search warrant for all packages sent or received by Manzer via UPS. Shortly thereafter, an officer was conducting surveillance at a UPS store in Springfield when he saw Manzer arrive in a pickup truck with "Curran's Taxidermy" written on the side. The officer observed Manzer bringing six packages into the store, which he dropped off for next day shipment to Oklahoma. A Springfield Police canine unit responded to the scene and the canine alerted to the packages.

The Springfield Police officer executed a search warrant on the packages and located six large Styrofoam rocks containing 143 pounds of marijuana.

Manzer faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and a three-year term of supervised release. He will be sentenced on February 26, 2019 before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken.

As part of the plea agreement, Manzer agrees to forfeit any criminally-derived proceeds and property used to facilitate his crimes identified by the government prior to sentencing.

So . . . lemme see if I got this. We have states legalizing the growing and sale of cannabis. Cannabis companies are seeking to trade publicly or raise millions from private investors. There's such a wave of decriminalization of marijuana sweeping the country that I've heard it told that a lot of folks are using the scales held by the statues of Justice in the courthouses to weigh their stash of pot before sale. Tipping the scales of Justice has now been replaced by toking the scales of Justice. It's gotten so mainstream that the State of Oregon has, in part, posted this helpful bit of guidance on its "Recreational Marijuana FAQs Page
Q:  When can I smoke/use recreational marijuana?
A:   As of July 1, 2015, Oregonians are allowed to grow up to four plants on their property, possess up to eight ounces of usable marijuana in their homes and up to one ounce on their person. Recreational marijuana cannot be sold or smoked in public. For more information go to:
Q:  Where and when can I buy marijuana?
A:   You may purchase marijuana items at an OLCC licensed retail location. 

Q:  How much marijuana can I have?
A:  The personal possession limits are:
  • One ounce of usable marijuana in a public place;
  • Eight ounces of usable marijuana;
  • 16 ounces of a cannabinoid product in solid form;
  • 72 ounces of a cannabinoid product in liquid form;
  • Five grams of cannabinoid extracts or concentrates, whether sold alone or contained in an inhalant delivery system;
  • Four marijuana plants; and
  • Ten marijuana seeds. . .

With the holiday season approaching, it's almost a Christmas Carol: 

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
72 ounces of cannabinoid product in liquid form; 
16 ounces of cannabinoid product in solid form; 
10 marijuana seeds; 
8 ounces of usable marijuana; 
5 grams of cannabinoid extract; 
4 marijuana plants, and 
an ounce of usable marijuana in a styrofoam rock under a partridge in a pear tree.  

Notwithstanding the ongoing decriminalization of cannabis, the federal government, in all its august majesty, is going after some idiot who's driving around in a taxidermy pickup truck and sending via UPS styrofoam rocks filled with marijuana. And that horrific crime of Manzer's could put him into federal prison for 20 years and hit him with a million dollar fine. I mean, you know, styrofoam rocks filled with grass?  Sort of gives new meaning to the term "getting stoned."
Do yourself a favor -- do your parents and grandparents (especially!) a favor -- print out a copy of the NYAG Release and pass it around the Thanksgiving and Christmas tables. I've gotten the phone call. You've gotten the phone call. An elder relative is upset because someone called and threatened to arrest them if they didn't immediately pay their taxes or their grandkid's kidnappers. 

No, mom, the IRS will not send someone to your apartment with handcuffs and, no, mom, don't go to Duane Reade and buy a gift card and call back those idiots. Yes, mom, I'm a lawyer and I know what I'm talking about. No, mom, don't listen to your friend in the building whose daughter works for a dentist and one of the patients has a son who cleans toilets at law firms, and that toilet guy said that you better get the card and read the serial numbers to the scamsters. Yes mom, I like my hair like this. No, mom, I' m not trying to imitate President Trump. Yes, mom, he's a wonderful man and will make America great again. No, mom, listen, President Trump is not coming to arrest you if you don't buy that card. Yes, mom, his wife is beautiful and so's his daughter. No, mom, his kids will not send the police to your home. No, mom, his wife won't either.

Please consider this portion of the NYAG Release:

Although there are many types of gift card scams, the most common are: 

Grandparent Scam - The scammer impersonates a grandchild of the victim who claims to be in some sort of trouble, typically related to a car accident or arrest, and in need of money to pay for bail or a lawyer. Victims report that the scheme was believable because the scammers knew the names and other information about their grandchild and sounded like their grandchild. Click here to read more about the Grandparent Scam, including a PSA on how to avoid being duped.

IRS Scam - The scammer impersonates someone from the IRS attempting to collect taxes allegedly owed. The scammer usually threatens arrest that day if the debt is not paid immediately via gift cards. Again, the victims report that the scheme is believable because the scammers may give the name and badge number of a real IRS agent whose identity can be verified online, the scammers may know detailed information about the victim's tax history, or the scammers may send the victim an email that appears to be from an IRS domain.

Tech Support Scam - The scammer impersonates a tech support employee claiming to work for the manufacturer of the victim's computer. The scammer claims there is a virus and requests remote access to the victim's computer. After the scammer "fixes" a non-existent problem, he or she demands payment for the services and refuses to unlock the computer until the victim pays.

With all of these scams, the scam artists frequently direct the victims to purchase thousands of dollars in gift cards, provide the scammers with the numbers on the back of the cards, and then destroy them, which prevents the consumers from subsequently asking the retailer to freeze the cards. Scammers also often train their victims to give false information to retail clerks who may question a large gift card purchase. The scammer then uses the gift cards almost immediately - often to purchase third-party gift cards such as iTunes, Steam, or Google Play cards. This makes it very unlikely that a victim will be able to get any money back. Once a consumer falls victim to the scheme, the scammer often continues to call the victim demanding more money in gift cards, resulting in large losses to consumers. For example, one New York resident reported losing $36,000 as the result of a grandparent scam. 

' ' '
  • You cannot pay bail, a lawyer, the IRS, or tech support using retail gift cards. If someone demands to be paid with a gift card, it's a scam.
  • Never give gift card numbers on the back of gift cards to someone you don't know.
  • Taxpayers should remember the IRS does not initiate contact with a consumer over a tax debt by phone, but through official mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are the IRS, urging immediate payment. 
  • Develop a secret code or "password" with family members that can be used to verify the identity of family members over the phone. You can also ask a question that only the real family member would know the answer to, such as "what was the name of your first pet?"  
  • In general, it's a good idea to ignore phone calls if you don't recognize the number. If it's someone you know, they will leave a voicemail or send you a text.  
  • If a retail clerk warns you that you may be the victim of a gift card scam, heed the advice and call your loved one or law enforcement officials.