‘Sleazy’ Deputy Bought Marijuana With Stolen Patient I.D.


Photo: Calaveras County Sheriff
Deputy Steve Avila admitted he stole a medical marijuana patient’s I.D. and authorization, then bought pot with it

​A California deputy has admitted using a doctor’s recommendation and stolen identity from a legal medical marijuana patient in order to buy pot in a drug sting.

Deputy Steve Avila of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department said during questioning that he had used the patient’s recommendation, with a falsified birthdate, to persuade a dispensary owner to sell marijuana to an officer.
Avila claimed he obtained the medical marijuana recommendation “from an investigation we conducted,” but also claimed he “did not recall” which officer obtained it, or how it was obtained.
Jay Smith of K Care Collective, the dispensary owner who was tricked into selling marijuana to an officer,  said Calaveras County is waging a war against medical marijuana, and is doing so using unethical means, reports Dana M. Nichols of the San Joaquin County Record.
Robert Shaffer, the medical marijuana patient whose identity was stolen, tells the same story.
According to Shaffer, Deputy Avila violated his privacy by using his identity and documents in the sting operation.

Smith, Shaffer and several medical marijuana patients and providers pleaded for help this week from the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors.
“I also fear my identity is being used in another of Avila’s illegal ruses,” Shaffer told the supervisors.

Photo: CCRMG
Dr. Philip A. Denney: “It just smacks of entrapment and sleaziness to me”

​”It just smacks of entrapment and sleaziness to me,” said Dr. Philip A. Denney, who issued Shaffer’s medical marijuana recommendation.
Denney said his office got a call from dispensary operator Smith, and that his staff confirmed that Shaffer had a valid medical marijuana recommendation, not knowing that Deputy Avila had stolen Shaffer’s identity.
“I think the cops have better things to do,” Dr. Denney said. “It was completely deceptive, because they never did talk to me. They did not have Mr. Shaffer’s authorization for any of this.”
At Smith’s preliminary hearing May 10, Deputy Avila admitted that he had used Shaffer’s recommendation.
Shaffer was arrested last November on felony marijuana transportation and sales charges. Investigators said they found Shaffer through a Craigslist ad for medical marijuana.

Photo: Calaveras County Sheriff
Deputy Brian Baker: Dirty deeds done dirt cheap? Baker also used forged I.D. to buy pot

​Deputy Brian Baker said he met Shaffer at a Subway sandwich shop in Valley Springs and purchased an ounce of marijuana for $350, according to an affidavit.
Baker presented Shaffer with a false medical marijuana recommendation bearing the name Thomas Baker. Baker claimed that Shaffer did not contact a doctor to verify the validity of the recommendatiron.
Shaffer pleaded guilty to sales and transportation of marijuana. He is scheduled to report to jail on June 14 to serve a 135-day sentence, and will also get three years on probation.
Smith’s case appears likely to take longer, according to the Record.
During a three-hour preliminary hearing, Deputy Avila testified that Smith repeatedly declined to sell him marijuana until Smith was able to confirm the validity of the medical marijuana recommendation.
A week later — after multiple phone calls — Smith said he finally confirmed it with Dr. Denney’s office, and agreed to sell the officer, who he believed was Shaffer, an ounce of White Widow marijuana for $270.
It is the first time that Calaveras narcotics officers have used a real medical marijuana recommendation for a real person during a drug sting, according to Deputy Avila’s testimony during the preliminary hearing.
A judge ruled — despite the evidence that Smith tried to comply with medical marijuana laws — there was sufficient evidence a crime was committed to order him to stand trial on transportation and sales charges.

Photo: Calaveras County Sheriff
Sheriff Dennis Downum claims he has “no beef” with medical marijuana patients

​Sheriff Dennis Downum claimed after Smith’s appearance before the Board of Supervisors that the Sheriff’s Department “has no beef” with legitimate medical marijuana patients who follow the law.
“For you to provide medical marijuana to someone, there has to be a caregiver relationship,” Downum said. “You are totally outside the guidelines when you are meeting somebody in a parking lot and selling them drugs.”
Sheriff Downum said that the District Attorney’s Office had reviewed the case and is prosecuting it.
“They think everything the officer did was appropriate,” he said.
But medical marijuana advocates said that laws passed since voters approved the original Proposition 215 legalizing medical pot in 1996 — in particular, SB 420, passed by the Legislature in 2003 — expanded the legal definition of legal providers to include distribution through collectives and cooperatives.
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department has targeted everyone who has tried to sell medical marijuana, according to Thomas Liberty of Calaveras Patient Resources, a group that supports cannabis patients.
“In our county, things have gotten worse,” Liberty said.