A California sheriff turned a brother and sister in to the DEA after they attempted to bribe him to ignore their illegal cannabis grows. In May, Chi Meng Yang and his sister Gaosheng Laitinen contacted Siskiyou County sheriff Jon Lopey with a business proposition. Yang allegedly asked Lopey to exempt eight grow sites from a ban on outdoor grows in Siskiyou County, in exchange for a $1 million donation to an organization of Lopey's choice. Additionally, Yang allegedly promised to collect money to donate to the sheriff's re-election campaign.
Lopey told Yang he would cooperate, but notified the DEA, the FBI, and the local District Attorney's Office. "What I did was something that the vast majority of law enforcement administrators or peace officers would do," he said. "The fact that somebody would think that any law enforcement administrator would compromise their professionalism and integrity is, you know, rather shocking."
Lauren Horwood, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento, said that Lopey met with Yang while wearing a wire, and agreed to accept $5,000 per property in protection money. At a third meeting, Yang introduced Laitinen to the sheriff. Earlier this month, Yang allegedly asked Lopey to expand their illegal operation.
DEA Special Agent Dennis Hale said that the two paid the sheriff a total of $10,500 before the FBI stepped in. Federal agents arrested Yang, but Laitinen is still on the run. Each of them faces up to 80 years in prison for the combination of bribery and marijuana trafficking charges, Horwood said.
Special Agent Hale said that Yang believed that Missouri will legalize medical cannabis this year, and was planning to have a crop of cannabis ready to sell across state lines. "I think that there's so much money involved in the industry that there's probably the belief that public officials can be corrupt," Lopey said. "It just illustrates the magnitude of the problem."
"I don't know how often this happens, but when it does, it's shocking and a little alarming," the sheriff said. "It was an interesting case, to say the least."