Right Under Their Noses

How did the sheriff's posse commander and his minions miss what is alleged to have been the largest marijuana-smuggling operation ever run by gringos? They were, after all, sharing a warehouse.

Raising further questions in Thrasher's mind were statements made by one of Weide's auto-parts employees. Eric Ukner, according to federal court records, told investigators he remembered only two occasions when Gregory had couches for sale. And Thrasher says Ukner told investigators that only a few couches were displayed for sale. Ukner declined to be interviewed for this story.

"There's a lot of difference between somebody bringing out two or three couches and 50 or 60," Thrasher says.

The couches, Thrasher says, may have been used to conceal marijuana during shipments.

"I was surprised that he [Weide] hadn't seen indicators himself, that something was wrong there," Thrasher says. "Here's a guy that's paying $4,100 [monthly rent] and has got very little business. When he has a sale, it's just a few couches . . . and most of the traffic happens at night."

Thrasher claims Weide attempted to scavenge property in Gregory's portion of the warehouse. He says Weide initially claimed that Gregory had given a couch to Weide's son.

"When we actually sat down and interrogated him, it turns out that he [Weide] told us that he was just trying to make up for his losses. That he actually had not been given the couch."

Thrasher says Weide also initially claimed to own a camper shell that was found near the cargo containers.

"He lied to me initially about the couch. He lied about a camper shell--that it was his. He actually, initially laid claim to damn near everything that was in there," Thrasher says.

Thrasher says after the crime scene was secured and Weide knew that authorities believed it was a marijuana-smuggling operation, Weide ordered an employee to steal.

"[He] had his secretary go in and literally clean out all the office supplies out of Gregory's office," Thrasher says.

When Thrasher discovered the next day that the office had been rifled, he confronted Weide.

"Weide says, 'We'll put everything back. We will do whatever you want done.' Because now he's scared. He's now worried because he knows now he's messed up," Thrasher says.

"Here's this guy, he's supposed to be commander of the damn sheriff's posse. . . . He went in there and parted him out, for God's sake," Thrasher says. "That's what he did. He went in there and parted him out."

Despite Weide's questionable behavior, Thrasher says no report was filed with the Sheriff's Office nor was Weide ever considered a suspect.

"He wasn't a suspect; he was a weasel," Thrasher says.
"There wasn't any kind of internal complaint or anything like that because there really wasn't anything we could do," Thrasher says. "How do you complain about stupidity?

"But there was more than stupidity," Thrasher says. "Marv went in and stole. I don't care how you word it, but when you go in and take possession, somebody else's possessions that don't belong to you, you're stealing."

As the debriefing continues, Thrasher's irritation with Weide's actions turns to questions.

"There were a lot of things about him that bothered me," Thrasher says. "If you look at his statements, they conflict with the other employees as to how many couches. What would be his reasoning?

"Why would he want to make it look like the guy had a legitimate business?
"Was he saying to himself, 'I screwed up, and now I have to try to legitimize this guy in my own mind'?"

These questions can only be addressed by Weide, who declines to be interviewed.

Thrasher says there was no point in referring Weide's actions to the County Attorney's Office for possible prosecution.

"It's hard enough to get a complaint if you have got an iron-clad case, much less if you have got a friend of [former Governor J. Fife] Symington's and Arpaio's and everybody else in the county," Thrasher says.

It was more a question of integrity, than criminal conduct, Thrasher says.
"I saw Weide as a greedy little man who probably didn't care who was in there as long as he made his $4,000 a month," Thrasher says.

"That's not to say . . . that he would have gone along if he had known there was a drug-smuggling operation going on. I don't think he took much care to find out if there was something going on."

The final chapter in the Weide warehouse saga remains to be written.
Gregory is expected to provide key testimony when Rice goes on trial in Waco. Evidence at the trial may shed more light on Gregory's contacts with Weide and reveal the amount of marijuana processed through Weide's warehouse.

There is also a possibility that federal prosecutors may invoke racketeering statutes and seek to force Weide to forfeit about $80,000 in rent received from Gregory.

"If they [prosecutors] want to ratchet it up, they could go after the money," says Phoenix criminal-defense attorney Marc Budoff. "If they think he was just dumb and greedy, maybe they don't want to confuse their case and go after him."

Repercussions stemming from Weide's close ties with the sheriff's department are also a possibility. Weide already has come under scrutiny for his role in creating the Sheriff's Posse Foundation. The nonprofit foundation has come under fire for its shoddy accounting of more than $400,000 in sales of Arpaio's pink underwear and questionable campaign activities.

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