News Release
July 17, 2007
Contact: Casey McEnry
Number: 415-436-7994

Round Two: Second Search Warrant Served at Bakersfield Marijuana Distribution Center
Marijuana, Guns, and US Currency Seized; 5 Arrested

JUL 17 -- (Bakersfield, CA)- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gordon Taylor announces today the culmination of a federal investigation into Natures Medicinal Cooperative, a marijuana distribution center, located at 323 Roberts Lane, Bakersfield. Earlier this morning law enforcement served three federal search warrants and five federal arrest warrants at locations related to the investigation. All search and arrest warrants were served without incident. As a result of today’s searches agents seized over 87 pounds of processed marijuana, 35 marijuana plants, a small amount of marijuana laced baked goods, one Smith & Wesson .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and one loaded 12 gauge shotgun. Additionally, $20,000 was seized from bank accounts related to the marijuana distribution center and $15,036 cash was seized from the residence of David Chavez Sr.

DEA Special Agent Gordon Taylor stated, “The nature of this criminal enterprise was to make money - to the tune of over $9.6 million dollars in just nine months. That’s $50 for every minute their illegal operation was open for business.” Taylor added, “This case should send a message to those who falsely believe they can circumvent federal drug laws.”

This 18-month investigation was led by the DEA Bakersfield Resident Office, in coordination with the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California, Bakersfield Police Department, Kern County Sheriff’s Office and Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).

On May 1, 2007, agents served search warrants at Natures Medicinal Cooperative (NMC) and the residence of David Chavez Sr., and his son, David Chavez Jr., the owners of NMC. As a result of those search warrants law enforcement seized approximately 155 lbs of processed marijuana and marijuana tainted food products and approximately $55,000 cash was seized from the business, residence, and bank accounts. Record seized from the business indicated approximately 1,500 pounds of marijuana was purchased by NMC between December 2005 and April 2006. Receipts from NMC indicated gross sales amounts in excess of $9.6 million during a nine month period.

In addition to the search at NMC today, law enforcement conducted searches at the residence adjacent to NMC at 321 Roberts Lane and Chavez’s residence located at 229 Montavo Drive, Bakersfield. Five individuals were arrested in relation to the investigation, which include two owners and three employees of NMC. The following persons were arrested today for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and will appear before a US Magistrate in Bakersfield tomorrow:

1. David Chavez, Sr., 48, of Bakersfield, CA
2. David Chavez, Jr., 28, of Bakersfield, CA
3. John Wyatt, 28, of Bakersfield, CA
4. John Shanks, 59, of Bakersfield, CA
5. Jennifer Brown, 34, of Bakersfield, CA

This case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California in Fresno, CA. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven otherwise.