Tempe police teamed up with Nevada authorities this week to bust the Yoki A Ma' medical marijuana club, arresting six people.
It's the latest arrest of people accused of operating clubs that distributed medical marijuana to state-registered patients, and the second to involve a business named in the legal action against Arizona clubs filed in August by state Attorney General Tom Horne.
In the three other club-busts that we're aware of, though, either no charges were ever filed or the charges were dropped. Those cases, if you'll recall involved: the Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group of Tempe (no charges); Al Sobol's 2811 Club, LLC, (no charges); and the Arizona Go Green Co-op, (charges dropped). Authorities could still charge the operators from the first two clubs or re-charge the folks from Go Green, (though Horne's office told us a couple of weeks ago it didn't intend to pursue that case, which was initiated by the Drug Enforcement Agency.)
All of the busts come as Horne's lawsuit in Superior Court against the club remains unresolved. Police don't want to seem to wait to find out what the judge thinks.
In this case, Yoki A Ma' had police from another state looking at it.
As the club's Web site says, it has one location at 1819 E. Charleston Dr. #101 in Las Vegas, and lists a guy named Dave Paulson as being an employee of that club. The site also says another Vegas location at 810 East Sahara Avenue was supposed to have opened on November 14.
No one answered the phone at the club in Tempe or its Mesa affiliate at 4639 E. Virginia Street #101.
Yesterday's raid, which came at about 11 a.m., was the result of a five-month investigation and targeted the locations in Tempe, Mesa and one in Las Vegas, Tempe police say. An update on the case is expected after 1 p.m.
The six arrested were:
* Craig Allen Scherf, 45, of Chandler. He's apparently the main guy. He identifies himself on the Yoki A Ma's Web site as a doctor:
Dr. Craig Scherf
MDA, MCLI, ME, MDE, MCLT, CSO, ERM
Dr. Scherf carries a doctrine in muscular kinetics, and medical laser technology. Dr. Scherf has medical degrees from National University and has served in the Arm Forces as an Air Medic. Dr. Scherf has studied Eastern and Western Medicine. Is certified in acupuncture and herbal medicine.
* Nicole Dawn Scherf, 27. She's Craig Scherf's wife.
* Richard Ray Hagerman, 55, of Mesa — Nicole Scherf's dad.
* Renee Bruggeman, 41, of Tempe.
* Rodger Murray, 26, of Chandler.
* Mark Siegezwki, 46, of Mesa.
The investigation started when someone called the city of Tempe to complain about the business being operated without a license. Undercover cops went in "numerous" times to the shops. From the news release:
Through this investigation Detectives discovered that the suspects in this investigation were illegally selling/dispensing marijuana to medical marijuana card holders as a "gift" after receiving $65 to visit the business.
Police noted that Craig Scherf had previously filed an application for a medical-marijuana dispensary in Tempe that had been rejected. No dispensaries currently exist in Arizona to serve an estimate 15,000 patients because Governor Jan Brewer canceled the voter-approved dispensary program in May.
Patients can still obtain state-issued registration cards that allow them to legally possess and use pot under state law.
Police seized a pound of marijuana, four handguns, a rifle, a shotgun and $2,000 in cash, and are seeking charges of marijuana possession, transportation of marijuana for sale and operation of an illegal enterprise.
We'll let you know if prosecutors move forward with the case.
Craig Scherf just returned our call, saying he thinks police moved prematurely against his club because of Horne's pending lawsuit. He's been before Superior Court Judge Dean Fink, who's overseeing the case, every few weeks since Horne filed the action.
"They should have waited for Fink's decision," Scherf says, adding that Tempe police told him they had no knowledge of the case.
Scherf claims that police found less than a pound — "maybe four-five ounces," he says — adding that each employee had a medical-marijuana card, which allows possession of up to two-and-a-half ounces per person.
He says he's never smoked the stuff, despite having a card for his spinal problems.
Scherf also wanted to clarify the report of firearms: None of the guns were found at the club, he says. Besides a gun found at his health clinic next door, he says police are counting guns found and seized during a traffic stop five weeks ago outside of Kingman.
In that stop, Scherf says detectives believed he was coming back from Las Vegas with a load of marijuana. After a drug dog went through the car, all that was found was a gram of pot mixed with some pipe tobacco.
Police seemed frustrated by the relatively small amount of weed found at the club, Scherf says, and repeated asked him and employees, "Where's the weight?"
The club doesn't transport or stock medical marijuana, Scherf explains. Similar to the model of other pot clubs we've covered, Yoki A Ma accepts pot from an association of caregivers. The pot is donated to the club, and the club, in turn, gives it away for free to qualified patients, Scherf says.
After "destroying" the club's office and seizing the vehicles of Scherf and his wife, (cops even took their pot cards), Scherf and the rest spent about 10 hours in jail before being released, he says.
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The club is closed, for now.
UPDATE: Las Vegas news media are publishing articles this afternoon about the Nevada part of this bust.
Nicole Marie Clemens, 30, (at right), was arrested by Metro Police and booked into jail on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale.