Couple who leased storefront to illegal pot store must pay $388K

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SAN DIEGO — A judge Tuesday ordered a Riverside County couple who leased a San Ysidro storefront to an illegal marijuana dispensary to pay $388,000 in civil penalties to the city of San Diego.

The judgment against Quirino and Bertha Gutierrez of Menifee equates to $1,000 a day for each of the 388 days the dispensary operated illegally. It brings to $7,862,353 the civil judgments obtained by the City Attorney’s Office against landlords and operators of illegal dispensaries.

“Landlords of illegal dispensaries are no less culpable than their tenants, and we prosecute them with equal vigor,” City Attorney Mara Elliott said. “If you are leasing your property to an unpermitted pot shop, we will hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

The defendants’ property at 154 West San Ysidro Blvd. is located in a zone where a marijuana dispensary could be permitted, but the defendants never obtained a permit from the city.

In October 2015, the city investigated a prior marijuana dispensary operating at the property. The operators of the dispensary closed it by the end of November 2015.

In August 2016, the court entered a default judgment against the Gutierrezes, imposing $12,399 in penalties and costs and a permanent injunction prohibiting them from leasing their property to any marijuana-related business without permits.

In March 2016, the city learned that the “Luxury Care Healing Center” was operating at the property and advertising marijuana products on the Internet. The current lawsuit was filed in May and the court issued a temporary restraining order against the Gutierrezes in September.

The dispensary continued to operate in violation of the court’s orders until the San Diego Police Department raided it on Feb. 22, 2017, and impounded about 10 pounds of marijuana, $3,484 in cash, 100 edible marijuana products and 150 concentrated products.

The court entered a $425,000 default judgment against the Gutierrezes but set it aside after their former attorney, Ron Rockwell, admitted fault in failing to answer the complaint.

Earlier this month, San Diego Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp granted the city’s motion for summary judgment against the defendants.

The final judgment includes a permanent injunction, prohibiting the Gutierrezes from operating or maintaining a marijuana dispensary or any other marijuana-related business without a conditional use permit.

The judge also signed a default judgment against the dispensary operator, Ziad Putrus, ordering him to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and prohibiting him from operating or maintaining a marijuana dispensary or other marijuana-related business in the city of San Diego without a conditional use permit.

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