MOFFAT — The Moffat saga continues, with new developments painting a different picture of what Zengxi Gao and his friends have reported to the Sheriff’s Office as theft from his marijuana grow located on Mayor Riegel Boulevard in the town.
Sheriff Dan Warwick says he now has received statements from several of the individuals involved in the incident and it is looking more and more like a civil dispute. The paperwork will be submitted to District Attorney Robert Willett soon for a determination, he confirmed.
A group of Moffat citizens (who wish to remain anonymous to avoid any recriminations), are protesting the false characterization of Ernest Gonzalez, by Gao’s spokesperson, as an illegal marijuana grower. Gonzalez was one of several who accompanied Garegin Pogosyan, the man who went to Gao’s to collect his belongings May 18.
Gonzalez was recently licensed by the Marijuana Enforcement Division to grow retail marijuana in the Town of Moffat outside of Area 420, and as his friends point out, this would not be the case if he was growing illegally or had any history of illegal growing with law enforcement. Group members insist with Warwick that the incident which took place at Gao’s establishment was a civil matter — a collection of belongings by a former employee, (Pogosyan), with assistance from town officials.
Because Gao’s property is on Potch land at present, and the town and Potch seem to be at odds, the group behind Gonzalez is questioning the source of the information and report made by Gao. This after months of apparent cooperation between Potch officials and the town to achieve the annexation, now challenged by two attorneys and the county.
They believe Gao’s spokesperson may be associated with the Potch, LLC group, and the accusation made against Gonzalez could stem from a comment made by Gonzalez about Potch, LLC during a town meeting earlier this year regarding real estate sales.
Some have objected that although lots are selling in Potch LLC/420, those selling the lots do not have the necessary real estate licenses. This was confirmed by the Center Post-Dispatch last year with the Department of Regulatory Affairs (DORA). The website for Area 420 does not seem to have any licenses listed.
While town officials are not talking, some town residents report that all is not well in Potch, LLC paradise. There have been water disputes between the town and Potch/Area 420, and one source says several citizens witnessed an incident where harsh words went down between Mayor Riegel and Potch LLC developer Whitney Justice over the water issue. Another resident has forbidden Potch/Area 420 to transport water across his property.
There are conflicting stories, but the general consensus from the citizens recounting the initial incident run as follows. Gao’s operation was shut down by the Town of Moffat and is not operational per the State since December, allegedly after some marijuana could not be accounted for at the facility. Pogosyan was an employee of Gao’s at the time, and after the shutdown, could not collect his belongings.
Warwick commented that according to statements he received, it appears that Pogosyan had some financial stake in the equipment removed from Gao’s facility. Group members said it was the current lease holder for Gao’s property, Matt Litrenta, who finally let Pogosyan, Gonzalez and the town officials in to collect his property, so there was no “break-in” as some reported.
Nor was Canna Valley Consulting (CVC), associated with the town, there to conduct an audit rather than assist in collecting Pogosyan’s property since the facility had already closed. “All they took were the things that belonged to him [Pogosyan],” one group member noted. The mayor and town officials did not take anything other than the property that belonged to Pogosyan, s/he added.
But the Moffat group observing from the sidelines believes that when all is said and done, those now seeing the potential problems with Potch LLC/Area 420 and the disputed annexation will be the losers. “They were taken for a ride by these people,” one group member said. “We all were, including the town.”